(Cesena) Flooding caused by heavy rain in Emilia-Romagna, central northern Italy, left at least eight dead, several missing and thousands evacuated, leading to the cancellation of the Formula 1 Grand Prix planned for this weekend in the region.
“Unfortunately the number of victims has increased to eight,” said Irene Priolo, vice-president of the region, to the press, estimating that “more than 10,000” the number of people evacuated.
The media reports nine victims in total, but no official source contacted by AFP confirmed this figure, the region indicating that a press release would be published at 1 p.m.
The streets of many localities in the plain were submerged by water after heavy rainfall and many inhabitants found themselves trapped, forced to take refuge in the floors or on the roofs of their houses, while many local roads were impassable.
According to Civil Protection Minister Nello Musumeci, 50,000 people are without electricity.
“If we had designed a rainwater distribution network capable of absorbing 1000 millimeters in 12 months, we must now think of a system that will have to absorb 500 millimeters in 48 hours,” he commented.
“Nothing will be like before, because this process of tropicalization that is rising from Africa also involves Italy,” added Mr. Musumeci.
The repetition of extreme weather events “may be the consequence of ongoing climate change,” said Colonel Paolo Capizzi of the Air Force Weather Service.
“Sooner or later, the water deficit is filled, but sometimes too quickly”, adds the expert, recalling the drought of the last months in Italy and predicting for “the next days the same instability” weather.
“I, who was born here, have never seen this, this time we are really scared,” said Simona Matassoni, owner of the Savio hotel in Cesena, on the Adriatic coast, reached by telephone.
On the night of Tuesday to Wednesday, residents of the vicinity of the commune of Forli, where the first victim was found, fled barefoot, shocked, in the dark, with water up to their chests, according to a AFP photographer on site.
In Imola, where the F1 Grand Prix was to be held on Sunday, the Santerno river which borders the tracks is in flood and the race management announced the cancellation of the event on Wednesday.
“It is a responsible decision given the situation in the towns and villages of the region. It would not be fair to increase the pressure on local authorities and response services at a difficult time,” F1 promoter Formula One said in a statement.
If the track itself is not flooded, the enclosure of the circuit is, in several places, under water according to the photos of journalists present on the spot.
Italian civil protection said 14 rivers burst their banks between Tuesday and Wednesday and 23 municipalities were flooded.
She called on Twitter for “maximum precautions” as mayors across the region urged their fellow citizens to take refuge at higher altitudes.
Residents “should not go into cellars or basements under any circumstances, and avoid ground floors if possible,” Cesena Mayor Enzo Lattuca warned on Facebook.
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni on Wednesday expressed her support for those affected by the floods, saying the government was “ready to intervene with the necessary help”.
Emilia-Romagna had already been affected two weeks ago by heavy rains which had caused floods and landslides which killed two people and caused damage in agriculture of around 300 million euros, according to the Coldiretti union.
This depression, which is hitting Italy the hardest, has also caused flooding on the other side of the Adriatic, in Croatia and Bosnia, with no casualties so far.