(CNN) – An incident in which vandals apparently smeared red pigment on a famous white cliff on the island of Sicily has been called “cowardly” by local authorities.
An investigation has been launched after the Scala dei Turchi, or Turkish Steps – a distinctive waterfall of marly limestone rock jutting out of the Mediterranean on the island’s southwest coast – was allegedly targeted overnight between January 7 and 8.
Photos released by the police show red streaks rolling down the slopes of the rocks, which are a popular tourist attraction and, according to legend, were once a landing site for Saracen or Arab sailors.
“The splendid white marl cliff of Scala dei Turchi, in the region of Agrigento, an attraction for visitors from all over the world, has been shamefully disfigured”, wrote the President of Sicily, Nello Musumeci, on Facebook.
The cliffs are a popular tourist spot.
Carabinieri of Agrigento
“We condemn the authors of this cowardly gesture, which constitutes an outrage not only to a landscape heritage of rare beauty but also to the image of our island.”
Major Marco La Rovere, investigating as chief of the Agrigento rifle police department, said what appeared to be paint was actually red oxide powder, commonly used to make construction plaster.
“With the humidity and seawater, the oxide powder melted,” La Rovere explained.
Volunteers and municipal technicians with water pumps were able to remove the oxide the next day, La Rovere said, adding that investigators were confident the footage from security cameras would reveal the identity of those behind the blast. ‘incident.