Policastro Bussentino (Italy) (AFP)

The dead body of the French hiker vanished nine days ago south of Naples, Italy, was found on Sunday at the bottom of a ravine, Italian media reported.

Simon Gautier's body, 27 years old, was found in Belvedere di Ciolandre municipality after a rescuer saw his backpack from a distance, with binoculars, according to these sources.

It was not immediately possible to obtain confirmation from the authorities.

Under a blazing sun, teams of specialized firefighters, dog teams, members of the alpine rescue, a helicopter but also drones inspected Sunday every corner of this steep coast where the mountains and cliffs flow into the sea.

Dozens of volunteers, shepherds and residents, but also around 20 of the young man were also present around Policastro Bussentino, about 200 km south of Naples.

Rescuers found traces of blood at the edge of one of the trails and analyzes were underway to determine if it is that of Simon Gautier.

The 27-year-old Frenchman who has lived in Rome for two years to write a thesis in art history, had planned a solo hike from Policastro Bussentino to Naples. He had sent a picture of his backpack to his relatives: water, food, a book ...

Images of surveillance cameras show him arriving at the Policastro Bussentino station on Thursday, August 8 around 16:00, dressed in a black tank top and jeans shorts. He stopped to buy a bottle of water and then hit the road.

Friday, August 9, shortly after 9:00, he called the rescue with his mobile phone. According to the recording of the call, he stated that he fell off a cliff and broke both legs, but could not tell where he was, "in the middle of nowhere on the coast".

- Hope and anguish -

"From the moment that Simon's call for help reached the carabinieri (...), the operations began immediately to geolocate the phone," said the Salerno prefecture, on which the area depends, in a statement Saturday.

But this geolocation is complicated, because there are very few antennas in this uninhabited region.

According to Simon Gautier's relatives, relief efforts have been slow to mobilize. The first helicopter took off only on the 10th of August in the afternoon, and the shore crews had long remained small for a craggy search area of ​​more than 140 km2.

But alpine rescue teams arrived on Saturday and the search area was narrowed sharply. The French ambassador to Italy, Christian Masset, also visited the site on Sunday.

Witnesses and "technical data" related to his phone suggest that he spent the night of August 8 to 9 on a beach and then left shortly after 6:30 the next morning, said the head of law enforcement.

From this beach, he was able to take only three trails. But when he called for help less than three hours later, he explained that he had lost the trail.

After nine days of anguish, the young man's friends wanted to keep hope: according to them, Simon Gautier was "very sporty and organized", he had well prepared his trip and he had food and water reserves.

In the evening, a vigil was planned in the village of Scario, the closest to the research area, where an outdoor mass was said in the late afternoon for relief and the young man.

© 2019 AFP