Disasters & Accidents

Thousands evacuated as deadly floods devastate northern Italy

(Update: upgrades casualties, edits headline, lede)

Rome, May 18 (EFE).- Heavy rains and severe floods in northern Italy have killed at least 13, officials said, as the search continued Thursday for missing people.

More than 20,000 people have been evacuated from the Emilia Romagna region in northeastern Italy.

Rivers across the region have burst their banks, causing devastating floods that have left entire towns underwater in the provinces of Forli, Cesena and Ravenna.

Almost all rivers in the region remain 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 two 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 welcomed the aid but warned that the amount barely scratched the surface of what is 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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