Catastrophic Flooding in Italy Leaves 13 People Dead, Forces Thousands to Flee
Italy’s northern Emilia-Romagna has seen its worst flooding in a century as 23 rivers crested their banks, leaving 13 people dead and forcing thousands from their homes.
Many people were still missing after almost every river between Rimini on the northeast coast and Bologna, 70 miles away, flooded, BBC News reported.
As many as 300 landslides overtook 42 towns and cities, with around 20,000 rendered homeless by the disaster. Some older and disabled residents found themselves trapped, with rescue teams working throughout the night as the deluge continued.
“It was a very bad 48 hours. Water and mud took over our whole village,” said Roberta Lazzarini, 71, whose home in Botteghino di Zocca, south of Bologna, was hit hard, as BBC News reported. “I’ve never seen anything like that here. We were stuck and didn’t know what to do. I just hope it doesn’t happen again.”
Around 400 roads were damaged or destroyed, and the regional governor said billions of euros in damage had been done, reported Reuters.
“We had already estimated almost 1 billion euros of damage (from those floods), so imagine how much the figure will rise,” said Emilia-Romagna President Stefano Bonaccini, as Reuters reported.
Bonaccini said “almost everything” had been rebuilt after the earthquake that destroyed thousands of the region’s homes in 2012 and that they would “rebuild everything (again), I am sure of that.”
More than 5,000 farms had been flooded, according to the Coldiretti agricultural association, including corn and grain fields and the part of the region deemed “Fruit Valley.”
Over the past year, Italy has been plagued by extreme weather, and the government has pledged $22 million in emergency relief, in addition to the $11 million for floods that killed at least two people two weeks ago. Luxury sports car manufacturer Ferrari donated a million euros to relief efforts.
“Mud remains… we are now cleaning the waste from the streets. The big problem is the hillside areas that have been hit by landslides and trying to reach people there – many have been cut off because of the landslides but also because there is no mobile phone reception. Some have no food,” said Matteo Raggi, a spokesperson for the mayor of the Forlì-Cesena region, Enzo Lattuca, as reported by The Guardian.
Meteorologists said months of drought had dried out the land and reduced its ability to absorb the water from recent heavy rains.
“Soils that remain dry for a long time end up becoming cemented, drastically limiting their capacity to absorb water,” said Civil Protection Minister Nello Musumeci, as BBC News reported.
Many of the region’s residents were left without electricity, but some locals were already able to re-enter their damaged, muddy homes.
“We had to throw everything away, nothing was saved,” Maurizio Cola, resident of the town of Cesena, told Reuters.
The Formula One Grand Prix, scheduled for Sunday in Imola, which is close to some of the hardest hit areas, was canceled in order to not add to the pressure on emergency services, but a Bruce Springsteen concert scheduled for today in Ferrara was still set to continue.
“I’ve lived here for 70 years and I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Lino Lenzi, 80, of Botteghino di Zocca, who blamed authorities, saying they had not dredged local rivers in years, BBC News reported.
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