La notte del Vajont
    [ 0 ITALIAN version]


After two years of slumber, where all is still and the utmost uncertainty on the future of those alpine peoples who, in the meanwhile have had also to tackle the 1966 flooding reigns, 1967 is a turning point for the Vajont saga.

In the preceeding spring, the earliest contacts took place, as already documented [in the book's previous chapters], between the newly born «Vajont catastrophe victim's Syndicate» and the management of the National Agency for Electrical Energy (ENEL).

In January the situation starts to move again, lively brought about on the floor by an interrogation by the Hon. Franco Busetto, of the Italian Communist party (PCI), who, on May 9th formally asks the President of the Council of Ministers and to the Minister of Industry, Commerce and Handicrafts, to explain ENEL's behavior with regard to the catastrophe's victims, as well as the former Società Adriatica di Elettricità company (SADE).
On this occasion, the Venetian parliamentary provokely requested to know if:

- [omissis] ...can it be tolerated that ENEL, apart form the responsibility that the Public Prosecutor could attribute to it during the proceedings, could cover up the company SADE, with regard to its present and fundamental responsibility of the catastrophe;

- the State is willing to promote the suspension of the payment by ENEL to SADE for its nationalization;

- finally to know when, in pursuance of the National Attorney General, the Government plans to adopt the necessary measures so as to allow the States administration to exploit the recoupment right set forth by art. 5 of Law nr. 357/1964 for aids towards the Vajont population, SADE and ENEL will be tried, both penally and civilly, as responsible parties for the catastrophe.

Two days later, the president of ENEL, Vitantonio Di Cagno, should have stood, since subpoenaed by the Longarone Town Hall, before the Belluno inquiring judge, Mario Fabbri, but he instead sends his special proxy holder, Giovanni Pavanini di Venezia. Also, on this occasion, the lawyer Alberto Scanferla, defendant of the Longarone's Mayor Giampietro Protti, also calls to judgment with civil responsibilities, the Minister of Public Works, hon. Giacomo Mancini, and the interim director of ENEL, Feliciano Benvenuti. Mr. Fabbri accepts this call to judgment.

Di Cagno, in his capacity of ENEL representative, must stand with regard to the civil responsibilities caused by the disaster, and is therefore called upon to pay for the asset and moral losses pursuant to this event. As can be gathered by an article that appeared on the newspaper "Il Gazzettino" on December 27th, 1966:

"[omissis] The Syndicate requested a total of 13 billions to ENEL (seven for the people and six for material assets) but up to now did not find an agreement basis although the Energy Company came close to such sum (rumors have been heard of ten billions). Up to now, the documents produced by the inquiring magistrate is only made up of the official appraisal requested and, among others, the one produced by the Longarone's Town hall. Furthermore, Mr. Fabbri requested a super appraisal that should be produced in a few months whilst waiting for the conclusion of the criminal proceedings, the civil one - started almost simultaneously to the first - has been suspended.
This civil lawsuit filed by the Longarone Town requested ENEL-SADE to pay a five billions compensation sum"

Things are suddenly speed up in a direction certainly unwanted by SADE, which in the meantime eclipsed itself, nor by ENEL the new owner of such an uncomfortable and useless state-of-the-art plant. Someone believes that ENEL is trying to let the entire thing fall into oblivion, since more than three years have already gone by since that tragic October 9th, and the manslaughter charges fall after seven and a half. It would be sufficient to reach April 9th, 1971 without a court hearing for the charges to fall and, in the words of the newspaper "l'Unità" - it would be a tragedy for Italian justice if the death of two thousand innocents remains unjudged and undecided.

In such a confused and movimented scenario, the INCA and the Chamber of Workers of Belluno (CGIL) are very concerned of the way things are looking, especially considering the founded rumors from many angles, pushing for the transaction with ENEL; they invite the national INCA administrator to consider the possibility of summoning in Rome, or even better, in Belluno a meeting of CGIL and INCA representatives, to ascertain the situation and eventually agree on any measure aimed at defining a fixed position for the survivors in the transaction, to crush the aggrieved party acting in a criminal proceeding to recover damages. In the month of may, all appears clearer. An article on the newspaper "Il Gazzettino" on Sunday the 28th states:

"The plenary of the Vajont's aggrieved, united last year in a syndicate, approved unanimously the report of the Board of Directors produced today by its Chairman, Mr. Protti, which stated that after a long and very difficult bargainings, ENEL decided to take on a complete compensation activity by allowing said syndicate access to a sum of ten billions, to be distributed among the rightful claimers.

The plenary started at 17:00 in Longarone's Town Hall in the presence of more than 400 of the 710 casualties staking part in the syndicate. Mr. Protti also said, disputing those that laid obstacles before the syndicate, that the refusal of compensation for needy begreived cannot be imposed as can it not be imposed for those who wish to carry on with the proceedings [...].
It is also useless to repeat that everyone is free to accept the offer one receives. Furthermore, with regard to the incomprehensible rumor on ENEL, we can see that ENEL's action is a compensation proposal, although late, that this company, since holder of the basin at the time of the catastrophe and called upon as civil responsible party, decided to do, according to an elementary human need, a need not shared by SADE."

It can be easily understood how, by reading these statements, the Chamber Secretary Eliseo Dal Pont forecasted the threat of a solution to the quarrel different to the one proposed by the syndicate that so fought for the rule of justice. The local Secretary had claims also against another article, that appeared on the "L'Unità" of May 26th - that in his opinion does not aid the task of maintaining a single front against those responsible for the disaster - which states:

"[...]. Although we must stand behind the Arduini's, the Santin's, Erto's Mayor and all those falling to this transaction, we must not condemn those that decide to accept the transaction. Above all this emphasizes the part of the Government and of leading political forces in charge of the reconstruction and the recuperation of the economic life of Longarone's community."

Also for this, the CGIL and the INCA hope to catch the opportunity to constitute a defense panel among all those lawyers that share the way of the transaction, so as to aid those that do not want to take part in the aggrieving panel and those that in the meantime, decided to accept. In this way, the Chamber of Workers is upheld also by part of the survivors who, immediately after the plenary of the aggrieved syndicate, loudly stake their claim; the walls of Longarone's houses speak harsh sentences against the Longarone's Mayor and legal advisors, responsible, in their opinion, of the transaction underway with ENEL.

The protest against the transaction and the convinced upholding of the need to set up as large a civil action in a criminal proceedings as possible, are emphasized by a group of survivors on the monthly magazine runned by Tina Merlin, the «Cadore Democratico».

Meanwhile, in the House of deputies, the honorables Busetto, Ingrao, Laconi, Lizzero and Vianello present the minister of Industry, Commerce and Handicrafts, a very harsh query relative to a question that stirred many souls, that is the transaction proposed by ENEL and accepted by some of the victims.

In this venue, these men ask to know, among other things, how it can be possible that ENEL which manages public funds, to bear the full burden of the responsibility that rests mostly on the part of SADE, the today "Montedison".

Mario Fabbri, the investigative judge, stands before the problem of retrieving unbiased and comprehensive reports and examiners due to the interests at play. Not stopping before the hardships, finds qualified technicians and acquires evidence for starting a truthful proceedings to ascertain the responsibilities of the events.


Some years after the tragedy, with the approaching date of the proceedings, ENEL started to try, through monetary substitutions to the survivors. To block, with strong pressure, the set up of a civil action in a criminal proceedings and, therefore to the entire proceedings.
The CGIL, regarding this transaction, clearly stood against it.

Some agreed to ENEL's proposal accepting the money; with the approaching trial, some who were still uncertain of its outcome, decided to also accept. Nonetheless, enough people refused ENEL's offer, standing the ground of CGIL, thus constituting the civil action in a criminal proceedings with the L'Aquila Courthouse.

After the presentation of the super-report, the legal test of which was carried out in Nancy (F) and after that the State's Advocate General gave clearance for a transaction between ENEL and the Vajont's aggrieved, in CGIL, INCA and all those believing that accepting would weaken the prosecutor's position in the criminal proceedings against the responsible persons, a growing belief that it is necessary to swiftly create, and sensibly enhancing such a civil action, starts to grow.

Italy is on summer holidays but not the CGIL, the INCA, the civil action's lawyers and the Mayors of the towns destroyed by the tragedy meet on August 5th, at the premises of the Belluno Chamber of Workers, to talk of setting up a single defense in the various civil actions, so as to give more oppositional power against SADE and ENEL. They also agreed, on this venue, on the need to set up a "Committee for the legal assistance of the disaster's victims" that, through public petitions and other initiatives, to raise funds useful to bear legal expense burdens. In this perspective, the morale in the "group against the transaction" radically changed: trust returned, the population appears to still thrive on justice, and the possibility of reaching the criminal proceedings with respectable civil actions appears closer.

CGIL and INCA don't give up.
In the last years, they carried out a though job, developing projects, cutting through all the red tape, sustaining the population and keeping its morale up, preparing for the establishment of a civil action: to give in now would mean betraying those who for years believed in bringing the responsibles before justice and in moral and material substitution, in the reconstruction of the towns and the productive activities that would give serenity and hope to those who lost them on that tragic October 9th.

The parliamentary inquiries by Hon. Busetto and Lizzero continued, who, on October 10th ask the interested minister to:


Many accepted ENEL's compensation proposal and others did not and still have not received any kind of compensation. CGIL stood by the principle that no one should have accepted ENEL's proposal. Unfortunately, some were forced in for mere survival reasons.

[...] firmly instruct ENEL to desist from carrying out acts that lost their initial solidarity feature to, basically, cover with the people's money, firstly ENEL's and secondly SADE's main responsibilities in the Vajont's tragedy, just before the catastrophe, of the seriously misset unclassifiable Vajont electrical power plant subject of the nationalization, as communicated by ENEL's Administrator, Mr. Vito Antonio Di Cagno, to SADE's Administrator, Mr. Vittorio Cini, immediately after the catastrophe, in view of the fact that the judge, while a criminal proceedings is being opened, against public administration officials, recently criminally indicted three SADE representatives and claimed SADE, in the person of the Administrator of the company Montecatini-Edison, Ing. Valerio, to be civilly responsible. [...]

On November 23rd, the public prosecutor Mandarino, asks for the indictment off all the defendant in the Vajont case and confirms, as civilly responsible ENEL, the minister of Public Works and SADE. At this point, all the involved parties feel that the proceedings is close at hand. INCA and CGIL, who are urging for it, also feel it. ENEL, who's interest is completely opposite to this, also feels it. In this conditions, along with growing requests of seeing those responsible brought to the defendants bar, the "Damaged persons Syndicate" accepts ENEL's transaction proposal. The date is December 5th, the venue is Rome, where the President of the Syndicate, Mr. Alberto Scanferla, who took over Giampiero Protti's position, and ENEL's administrator, Mr. Antonio Di Cagno, sign the agreement (in the following pages).


I shall only say one thing relatively to ENEL's attempt, after having succeeded to SADE, to cover the later's responsibilities it knew would fall upon it. We always stood by the position to refuse a transaction in the interest of the responsible persons.

After months of bargaining, ENEL issues 10 billions of italian Lire for the damaged persons, to be distributed according to the damages each stood, also to non-syndicate persons, through an ENEL plan.

On its side, the syndicate agrees, with this sum, to bear ongoing proceedings costs and to desist in setting up further civil actions against ENEL thus changing its, and the involved towns, previous positions. But the deed, that bears the date of the previous day, will come into effect only if accepted by a number of people, making up more than 8/10 of the entire convened compensation plan amount. Other are the clauses of this agreement, that should come into force on March 31st of the following year, that through the agreement of the parties, deny any further demand or pending debt between ENEL and the Vajont's aggrieved.

At this point, after that the newspapers deliver, even with delay, the news that the transaction took place, the anger of those that see in this long planned operation a maneuver aimed at liquidating as soon as possible the case and to conceal the various responsibilities of the persons involved in the disaster that destroyed whole towns and killed almost 2000 persons breaks out.

Even the lawyer Giorgio Tosi, member of the Director's panel of the Vajont's Damaged persons Syndicate and present at the debate, openly shows his contrariety. And precisely on this point, the newspaper "L'Unità" states that:

[...]the Lawyer Tosi reports the "great unfairness" made and openly accuses of fraud the December 5th: « The news of the signing comes from ENEL. ENEL produced the copy of the signed document we have seen.

Well, that is a monstrosity. This demands, to whoever accepts the transaction, to sign an "complete settlement and passive refusal to create civil actions already set up, as well as any further reimbursement request statement". [...].

The distribution of the 10 billions allocated by ENEL is for "all" of the Vajont's damaged persons, part or not of the syndicate. They must be individually approached and invited to state their allegiance to the transaction. If, at the end, these persons should not account for eight tenths of this sum, all will fall.

Meanwhile all those who signed (this could mean also eight tenths) will have withdrawn from the civil action! This means that ENEL holds in its hands, way to obtain the possible 'willful' withdrawal of the majority of the civil action in the criminal proceedings without having to pay the 10 billions it now proposes as part of the bargain.»

The CGIL and INCA, promptly met, along with some Venetian parliamentars, the Chamber secretaries of Pordenone and Belluno and a group of lawyers from the civil action to debate on the situation brought into being after the agreement and to convene on the guidelines to follow in the furtherance of the legal proceedings. Also, they ensure any necessary legal assistance to whoever already agreed to join the civil action and those deciding and that the Single Panel, planned in that year's August meeting, at this point is indispensable. The facts follow one another so fast to leave one baffled; in fact on December 13th, the Vajont's damaged persons syndicate's board of directors meets to discuss of what took place in Rome a few days earlier. Mr. Tosi, who as we have seen is strongly, against for ethic and technical reasons, the transaction signed on December 5th, heartily urges all present to ponder the serious responsibilities they take on, should they decide to ratify the document in question.


My only relation with the transaction is a political one; I was secretary of one of the damaged persons syndicate's representatives that dealt with ENEL and namely the lawyer Manlio Losso, member of the PSIUP party

At the time, there was great pressure since the majority demanded compensation, not so much of material damages since these were paid by the State, but of those damages not foreseen by National law, including the reconstruction and the moral losses. Some survivors managed to resist, carrying onward to becoming the civil action in the criminal proceedings.

As I said, there was this clear pressure, and therefore the "damaged persons syndicate" gave in and signed, in the person of Mr. Losso, ENEL's transaction. At the PSIUP, we believed that said transaction was not to be signed, that the same was a further political overpowering of he Vajont's population. In a meeting of the directors of the party, in the presence of Hon. Mr. Luzzato, member of the directive, Manlio Losso was kicked out. The same personally set up a civil action for having lost his father.

To my knowledge, the CGIL took a limitedly clear position. The people, faced with the frank legal view that this situation, that is to say that the proceedings could have lasted for years, preferred to accept the offer, weakening the prosecutor's stand.
Accepting the offer meant the abandon of the civil action and therefore, the proceedings, not supporting the civil action's position against ENEL and SADE. This undoubtedly influenced the first degree sentence of the L'Aquila Courthouse, that - basically - cleared the defendants.

The extreme try of the Paduan lawyer produces no outcome and the convention with ENEL is ratified by all members of the Council.



Four years after the Vajont's tragedy, the responsibles are called to justice to answer of their work; the trial should, probably, take place on next March.

ENEL, in starting the transaction with the Survivors Syndicate, opened a 10 billion account to liquidate the damages and therewith the creation of civil actions.

«The transaction will take place upon the condition that enough damaged agree to it so as to reach eight tenths of the whole amount of the subdivision plan», thus renouncing to justice, withdrawing from the civil action, based on a mere 'damage liquidation' promise.

The CGIL reports such serious position adopted by ENEL which, in this way, covers up SADE's - today's "Montecatini Edison" - responsibilities and urges the survivors to decline the transaction.

Both the CGIL and the INCA confirm legal support and assistance to Victim's families that joined in to the civil action or mean to join, to ascertain the responsibilities, obtain a conviction of all responsible persons and the substitution of all material and moral damages inviting them, to this regard, to turn to the Chamber of Workers and local INCA offices of Belluno and Pordenone.

The CGIL and the INCA, whilst undertaking the creation of a Joint Defense Panel for Victim's families, urge any lawyer holding proxies to join them in pursuing the legal action up to the conviction of the responsibles.

   Rome, December 14th, 1967

   The Secretary of CGIL - the Presidency of INCA

Those opposing the transaction timidly hoped to overturn the situation uselessly, and therefore the Secretary of the CGIL and the Presidency of the INCA were forced to undertake a capillary information campaign by posting approx. 400 posters (a translation thereof can be found in the above box), so as to give the damaged the possibility to freely decide to agree to the transaction or, as hoped, decline it joining the civil action in the criminal proceedings against those responsible.

Meanwhile, further situations of unclear nature or that leave one puzzled on the incident arise, such as the revelations made by the newspaper "L'Unità" on December 13th, and then reappeared on an article dated December 19th, that opens up by saying:

"the Town of Longarone spent, in a couple of years, more than 106 millions for "legal expenses" relative to the proceedings procedure for the Vajont's catastrophe, but has not carried out any real trial activity. It has limited itself with the financing of a private person legal expenses, in this specific case, the Mayor."

Both CGIL and INCA make press releases to the main news headings standing by their position and stating that this:

" [...] originates from the belief that no one can turn away from its civil and legal responsibilities - including SADE - based on the mere "reimbursement promise". It is immoral to ask us to forget that more than 2,000 persons lost their lives due to SADE's job, that is now being called to justice, since such a behavior could lead anyone in the future to act in the same way, only to achieve a gain."

The climate starts to get really heavy: there is a fierce political struggle between central and right-wing forces, in favor of the transaction, and left-wing forces, standing by their belief that the transaction is only a mean to destroy the creation of civil actions thus concealing the real responsibilities of SADE and ENEL.

This joust is carried out mainly on newspapers. A clear example, besides the ones already mentioned, is an article featured on the "Resto del Carlino" dated December 17th, containing a clear attack against CGIL and INCA's mission, and precisely against the above statements.
Here are some of the most important parts:

   "... with regard to the transaction and the advice of the Syndicate, a communist paper spat neverending venom with various articles, but the answer has already been given by the interested party and there do not appear to be any remittances. The press release of the Chamber of Workers does not bear in mind one comment but this, nonetheless, is necessary to awaken those who delight in drinking a lot.

   To the best of our knowledge, any deed wishing to undergo the clearance procedure, must be drafted and signed by the parties concerned in order to avoid any claims or wrong readings [...].
Furthermore, whenever a civil action is constituted in a criminal proceedings, it is customary to make offers to avoid it. ENEL, called to justice made its offer: the Syndicate's representative should have reviewed it, presenting it to their represented. It is obvious that whoever accepts the offer cannot join into the civil action. In this regard, the interested have had free mill to decide. It has been said and repeated that the transaction concerned only ENEL and not the SADE, against which, according to the outcome of inquiries carried out by the criminal court, ENEL can stake its claim (and this decision does not interest the aggrieved in any way) [...].
    [...] As concerns the responsibilities, it is Justice that must speak its mind and the fact the ENEL compensates for the damages, does not invalidate the judges verdict."

The various position are very clear and the battle is fought both on the principles level as well as the level of the protection of the damaged ones.

0For the small portion of year left that is still to be told, before entering 1968, when the long awaited trial will take place, it is worth mentioning the efforts made by the 'Chamber of Workers' of Belluno city which, by public meetings, like the one held in Codissago on December 19th, and by means of a letter to the families of the Vajont's victims (pages 92-93), along with the neighbors from the Pordenone's Confederate Chamber of Workers, informed the population of the syndicate's beliefs, not giving a single step on the positions taken by the same since the dawn of this most sad occurrence.

Read the summary of the book from which this excerpt has been taken


INCA = National Confederate Institute for Assistance, left-wing area

CGIL = General Italian Workers Confederation, left-wing area

10 billions lire (ITL), in 1967 = € 5.164.568,99 today (approx.)

PSIUP = Italian Working Class Unity Socialist Party, left-wing area

ENEL = National Electrical Energy Agency

DC (Christian-Democrats party) = in the post IIWW, the leading party in our Country. Center/right area.
Supported explicitedly by Roman Catholic Church, in fact - apart some honest representative, as De Gasperi was - it was the more corrupted and mafious-affaristic political group in Italy. It was loaded by old fascists, and fascist-fashioned supporters (as G. Leone was). Not to mention, the power of SADE company grew definitely with their leaders (G. Volpi and V. Cini) in the Mussolini's age. Both fascist ministers (Volpi of the Finance, Cini of the Communications), at the dawn of their "duce" - 8th september 1943 - they flew in Switzerland and quickly step on the new "winners's side", mantaining their power and money. "Business as usual".

PCI = Communist Italian party. Led by Palmiro Togliatti, in the first republican govern minister of Interior.
Unfortunately, Mr. Togliatti (nicknamed "il Migliore", as to say, "The Best") put his signature on two lethal* documents:
a) the Concordat. It was the republican version/update of the fascist/catholic agreement by Mussolini with pope Pio XII.
b) the 1946's Amnesty to the fascists. No "Nurnberg trial", in Italy. This fact - imposed by the Allies in anti-Stalin keyed-mind - leaved immune at their seats all the fascist part of "administrators", politics, companies, military, cops and criminals nurtured by 20 years of regimen. This bad seed (and this FIRST, big lesson of impunity to the italian people) will give the so_called "italian anomaly" to the world.
The "Vajont manslaughter", two decades later, will be the SECOND one.

Giampiero Protti = the first Longarone's Mayor after the massacre (10.12.1964/13.07.1970 administration). His entire family was slaughtered that night. Christian Democrat (DC party), one of his first acts as Mayor was to whitdraw - as Town Hall Council leader - Longarone's community from penal trial, pointing only at the civil one (one of the side-effects of the forementioned "Transaction").
As a simple citizen, instead, he remained in the "strugglings for Justice".
This double-faced behavior by ALL "the Longarone's DC admins" led and supported the larger national cover-up of the matter performed by this party. Since 1964 in the "control room" of this 'artificial' town, and from the '46 to the nineties (Mani Pulite scandal) in the "control room" of this Country.

Not to mention, the role played in this affaire by the Senator (and Lawyer) Giovanni Leone. When he came to Longarone, promised "You will have JUSTICE!" as Prime Minister. Three months later, falled his govern, Mr. Leone became the coordinator of the ENEL/SADE's pool of lawyers against the survivors rights and claims. The "Transaction" (that no one Longarone's Mayor never saw, nor requested!) was nonetheless a brilliant Leone's idea.
Mr. G. Leone (the most impresentable President of our Republic, for me) was the only that resign himself on TV broadcast (15th of July, 1978, at 20:10) to escape the impeachment (and a open, huge scandal) for the DC bribery called "Lockeed affair".

lethal* = meaning - in the years - lethal for democracy and civil rights, here in Italy.
And counts. See at the voices "Vajont" (announced manslaughter), or "Berlusconi" (unfit to lead Italy) ...and learn.

CREDITS: my special thanks to Roberto Caputo, that translated this page for the rest of us. Tiziano Dal Farra.

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