A massive landslide affecting the southern Italian town of Maierato on Tuesday can be blamed on heavy rainfall and high ground saturation.

Maierato, located in the region of Calabria, was evacuated by more than 200 residents after an entire hillside collapsed and began to move.

AccuWeather.com meteorologists said rainfall totals for southern Italy are significantly above normal for the months of January and February.

A storm currently moving through southern Italy will bring rain to the region in the next 24 hours, with the heaviest precipitation north and east of where the landslide occurred. The next system with a similar track will bring more rain later in the week.

Leftover melting snow from the same system that brought rare snow to Rome last week could also have contributed to the heavy water content of the ground.

Continually wet weather for southern Italy since the beginning of the year, paired with the hilly landscape, makes the region extremely susceptible to landslides and mudslides.

The elevation of Maierato is between 700 and 1,000 feet above sea level, and the town is far from any open waters.

The main triggers of landslides include the loading of ground water to soil after continually wet conditions, which can change the make-up of rock and soil. Water content also adds weight.

Natural rock can become lubricated by water, causing it to break easily and slide along with attached land mass.

According to local reports, heavy rains caused more than 100 smaller landslides across Calabria.

A state of emergency in the town of San Fratello, Sicily, was declared Tuesday after landslides damaged homes and other buildings. Nearly 2,000 of San Fratello's 4,500 inhabitants have fled their homes.

Story by AccuWeather.com's Carly Porter.

Photo: A view of a damaged house a day after a landslide in San Fratello near Messina, southern Italy, early Monday, Feb. 15, 2010. Some 1,500 people were evacuated Monday after a landslide on Sunday. destroyed a part of San Fratello village, near Messina. (AP Photo/Carmelo Imbesi)