A severe weather event in Italy’s northern region of Emilia-Romagna has resulted in the tragic loss of at least eight lives and the displacement of thousands, officials reported on Wednesday. Torrential rainfall caused widespread flooding, wreaking havoc on towns and farmland across the region.
The region’s Civil Protection Minister, Nello Musumeci, highlighted the exceptional intensity of the rainfall, which dumped half of the region’s average annual precipitation in a mere 36-hour period. The deluge caused rivers to overflow, resulting in water inundating towns and submerging vast tracts of agricultural land.
Irene Priolo, the Vice President of Emilia-Romagna, confirmed that eight bodies had been recovered from various locations. She cautioned that, although the rainfall was subsiding, river levels continued to rise.
In light of the unfolding crisis, the upcoming Formula One race in Imola, located near the worst-affected areas, was cancelled. This decision was made to allow emergency services to focus on rescue operations.
Flooding was particularly severe in the cities of Faenza, Cesena, and Forli, located south of Imola. The inundation forced residents to take refuge in the upper levels of their homes as muddy water surged through streets and into buildings.
Emilia-Romagna’s regional president, Stefano Bonaccini, issued a warning to residents, advising them to avoid rivers and, if living near watercourses, to move to higher floors.
Numerous transportation links were disrupted, and residents across many towns, including Bologna, were urged to stay indoors.
Ravenna, a city renowned for its early Christian heritage sites, was amongst the hardest hit. The Mayor of Ravenna, Michele de Pascale, reported the evacuation of 5,000 residents from the city overnight.
This event marks the second time in a month that Emilia-Romagna has been blighted by severe weather. Earlier in May, storms claimed the lives of at least two individuals. Meteorologists highlighted that the region’s recent drought had worsened the floods’ impact, as parched land lacked the capacity to absorb the sudden influx of water.