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Italy: Deadly floods wreak havoc on Adriatic coast

May 17, 2023

Heavy floods have followed two days of severe rainfall in northern Italy, leaving at least nine people dead. Formula One's Emilia Romagna Grand Prix has been called off.

Flood water causing a river in Emilia-Romagna to burst its banks
Some 14 rivers burst their banks in the region of Emilia-Romagna aloneImage: Italy Photo Press/IMAGO

Italian authorities on Wednesday said at least nine people had been killed in the northern regions of Emilia-Romagna and Marche. 

The area along the country's Adriatic coast has been hit by heavy storms since Tuesday, leaving a trail of death and damage.

There are reports of further missing people. 

What we know so far about the floods in Italy

Fire service officials say the provinces of Ravenna, Forli-Cesena, Rimini and Bologna — particularly the cities of Faenza, Cesena and Forli — are the worst affected.

"The city is on its knees, devastated and in pain. It's the end of the world," Forli mayor Gian Luca Zattini wrote on Facebook.

The fire service says it has deployed 400 firefighters and responded to 600 calls since Tuesday morning. 

Emergency teams have rescued drivers who were stranded in their vehicles and people who were trapped in their homes by the water.

Crews rescued dozens of people trapped on the roofs of their houses in the city of Cesena, where the Savio river had overflowed its banks.

Footage showed whole streets under water and mudslides blocking other roads, with entire swaths of farmland flooded. Civil defense officials say 21 rivers are flooded in Emilia-Romagna alone.

To make matters worse, the severe weather has caused power cuts and problems with telephone connections in several areas.

According to the Civil Defense, about 50,000 people were left without electricity and 100,000 people without a mobile phone network.

What happens now?

Civil Defense Minister Nello Musumeci said some 5,000 people were being evacuated and that more could follow, with more rain forecast for the rest of the week.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni tweeted her support for victims and said the government was "ready to intervene with the necessary aid."

The government says it has already approved €10 million ($10.8 million) for initial costs and emergencies resulting from the floods.

Emilia-Romagna regional president Stefano Bonaccini said on Facebook that the authorities were still on full high alert and issued a warning.

"Do not go near the rivers. Those who live in areas close to watercourses should move to higher floors," Emilia-Romagna regional president Stefano Bonaccini said on Facebook.

"I am in constant contact with the Government, which we have asked to mobilize all possible means to face this emergency."

The latest tragedy comes after the area was hit by heavy rain just a fortnight ago, causing floods that caused two deaths.

Formula One Grand Prix canceled

The floods have forced the cancellation of this weekend's Grand Prix at Imola.  The Santerno River runs right next to the track.

F1 said that the decision was reached after talks with local government officials. 

"The decision has been taken because it is not possible to safely hold the event for our fans, the teams and our personnel and it is the right and responsible thing to do given the situation faced by the towns and cities in the region," F1 said in a statement. "It would not be right to put further pressure on local authorities and emergency services at this difficult time." 

Formula 1's current president and CEO, former Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali, grew up in the affected region. 

"It is such a tragedy to see what has happened to Imola and Emilia-Romagna, the town and region that I grew up in, and my thoughts and prayers are with the victims of the flooding and the families and communities affected," he said in a statement.

It is the second race on the 2023 calendar to be canceled. The Chinese Grand Prix was provisionally scheduled for April but was canceled in December amid concerns about China's remaining COVID-related travel restrictions.

fb, rc, msh/rt (dpa, AFP, AP, Reuters)