Disasters & Accidents

At least 9 dead as devastating floods hit northern Italy

Rome, May 18 (EFE).- Torrential rains and heavy flooding continued to batter the Emilia Romagna region in northeastern Italy Thursday where at least 9 people have died and over 20,000 have been evacuated.

Rain-swollen rivers have caused devastating floods and left entire towns underwater in the provinces of Forli, Cesena and Ravenna.

The levels of almost all rivers in the region continue to be above the emergency threshold and a red weather alert has been issued across the area.

Rain is not expected in the next hours, but forecasts have warned that downpours will return over the weekend.

New floods were registered in the Ravenna area overnight and evacuations in the towns of Castel Bolognese, Villanova di Ravenna, Filetto and Roncalceci continued due to the risk of flooding of the Lamone river.

Although some roads were reopened Thursday, including some sections of the A14 motorway which runs along the Adriatic coast of Italy, problems due to a landslide that affected the A1 motorway in Sasso Marconi were reported.

The Italian Government said that it would allocate another 20 million euros in aid, to the 10 million it had already approved a couple of weeks ago when the region suffered another flood. The government has also approved a temporary tax and mortgage moratorium for citizens of the region.

The president of the Emilia Romagna region, Stefano Bonaccini, on Thursday, welcomed the aid the government had earmarked but warned that the allocated amount barely scratched the surface of what the area needed.

“The 30 million assigned by the Government are welcome and I appreciate that they make them available immediately, but we are talking about billions of euros in damages only due to the tragedy of May 2 and 3, when four months-worth of water fell in 36 hours, while yesterday and the day before that, in just 36 hours, six months-worth of water (fell),” he said on Italy’s state-backed broadcaster, RAI.

Bonaccini described the recent rainfall as the equivalent of a year’s rain in just two weeks.

“A phenomenon of this magnitude had never been seen in our country,” he said.

The recovery will require “a great amount of work,” Bonaccini added.

“There are hundreds of roads to be rebuilt, the affected companies and citizens must be helped, and then activities must resume,” the regional chief continued.

Bonaccini also called on the government to appoint an extraordinary commissioner as soon as possible.

“We need a lot of investment and we will take immediate steps to ask for the extraordinary contribution of solidarity with Europe, which provided us with several hundred million euros after the earthquake” in 2012, he said.

The government will hold a council of ministers meeting on Tuesday next week where a state of catastrophe will be declared to approve the earmarked funds in aid, Gilberto Pichetto Fratin, Environment and Energy Security minister said on Thursday in a radio interview.

The floods have left nearly 50,000 people without electricity, while another 100,000 have experienced issues using their mobile phones.

The Formula 1 Grand Prix that was to be held in Imola over the weekend has also been canceled. EFE


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