At least 8 dead, thousands evacuated in N Italy floods

At least 8 dead, thousands evacuated in N Italy floods
# 17 May 2023 22:08 (UTC +04:00)

At least eight people have died and 12,000 were forced to flee their homes on Tuesday and Wednesday after torrential rainfall caused flash floods in and around Italy's Emilia-Romagna region, APA reports citing Xinhua.

Stefano Bonaccini, president of the region, said he feared the death toll would rise as reports of missing persons were pouring in amid rescue efforts aimed at removing residents stuck on the high floors of buildings or isolated on rooftops.

According to local media reports, the region was hit by more than 50 cm of rain in 48 hours -- around half its normal total for a full year.

Bonaccini said the rainfall and flooding were "a catastrophic event that had never been seen before." Nello Musumeci, Italy's minister for civil protection and marine policies, vowed to rush aid workers and equipment to the beleaguered region.

Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni issued a statement, making emergency funds available immediately and expressing her thanks to rescue workers "who risk their own lives to save those of others."

Meloni said on Wednesday that she would convene a special cabinet meeting to approve additional emergency measures for the region.

The Emilia Romagna Grand Prix Formula One car race scheduled for Sunday has been canceled amid safety concerns and to free up resources for rescue efforts.

Italy has suffered under the impact of severe weather waves for a year and a half, with a dry period during the winter of 2021-2022 causing a record-setting drought and high temperatures last summer resulting in dozens of deaths and slashing agricultural production by as much as a third.

Water levels in many parts of the nation's network of rivers dropped to all-time lows and a lack of snowfall last winter gave rise to concerns that the coming summer could be another difficult one for Italian farmers and travelers in the country.

Recent weeks, however, have seen intense rainfall across much of the country, overwhelming infrastructure and sending rivers through their banks, causing school and business closures and rerouting transportation networks.

News reports in Italy this week have been filled with images of submerged buildings and vehicles, and helicopters rescuing residents stranded on rooftops. But the sudden rash of deaths was unexpected.