The torrential rains that fell on the plains in the region over the course of two days caused about 20 rivers to overflow, flooding vast areas of land with water and evacuating thousands of residents.
David Maldola, a resident of Cesena, told AFP: ‘We saw from the window of the house (the second floor) the water gradually rising’ until it was submerged after it reached a height of one and a half meters, which led to the sinking of the house.
Helicopters flew all night, looking for survivors to rescue.
And in the neighboring city of Forlì, southeast of the regional capital Bologna, mayor Gianluca Zattini said his city was “on its knees, devastated and in pain”.
“It’s the end of the world,” Zattini added.
The regional authorities confirmed that 9 people were killed, mostly in the regions of Forlì and Cesena.
Thousands of farms were affected in the fertile agricultural region, but Agriculture Minister Francesco Lollobrigida said that “the waters must recede before the government can determine the damage.”
Divers recovered two bodies in Forlì yesterday, as part of a huge rescue effort involving the emergency services, the armed forces and more than a thousand volunteers.
Video footage showed relief workers carrying residents through flooded roads or on rubber boats, while torrents rushed through the corridors of Bologna, which is classified by UNESCO as a human heritage.
In other Italian Coast Guard videos, rescue workers appeared in a helicopter pulling two elderly people from the roof of a house where the water level almost covered the windows of the first floor.
In areas where the waters receded, streets were littered with thick mud and debris.
And just two weeks ago, the Emilia-Romagna region, one of the richest regions in Italy, was hit by torrential rains, causing floods that claimed two lives.
Civil Protection Minister Nilo Musumeci said that about 50 centimeters of rain fell in 36 hours in Forlì, Cesena and Ravenna, about half the usual annual rainfall, a situation that “has few precedents”.
He added that 20 million euros in emergency aid would be released, increasing to the 10 million euros received as a gift since the last flood.
Formula 1 cancellation
Flooding caused the cancellation of Sunday’s Formula 1 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix, scheduled for Imola, as organizers said they could not guarantee the safety of fans, teams and staff.
Paramedics worked all night to rescue children, the elderly and people with special needs from the rising water.
In Cesena Cristian Salamandre was covered in mud at the end of the day.
“We have come to help and to try to save people and animals,” Salamandre said, adding, “The situation is still harsh and tragic. We hope it will improve.’
About 10,000 people have been evacuated from their homes, according to the authorities, including 3,000 in Bologna and 5,000 in Ravenna, while about 5,000 people are still without electricity.
About 50,000 people lost electricity. In Forli, where an AFP photographer saw people in shock as they fled on Tuesday night, through floodwaters in the dark, barefoot.
Elsewhere, locals swam down one of Cesena’s avenues to rescue a 3-year-old boy, while a man was seen battling water while holding his cat.
The heavy rains came in the wake of a drought that affected large areas in northern Italy last winter, in addition to a record scarcity of rain last summer that affected agricultural crops.
“We have to get used to it in the future because unfortunately in recent years these heavy rains often fall,” Air Force meteorologist Paolo Capizzi told AFP.
He said global warming could not be directly blamed, but that the “ever-increasing frequency of this phenomenon could clearly be a consequence of ongoing climate change”.
Prime Minister Georgia Meloni tweeted while on her way to the G7 summit in Japan, to confirm her support for those affected, and said that the government was “ready to respond with the necessary assistance.”
The rains are expected to subside on Thursday in the flooded area.