Nine killed in floods in northern Italy and the Formula One race canceled (photos)

At least nine people were killed in the northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna, where torrential rains caused floods that inundated entire neighborhoods and farmland on Wednesday, also leading to the cancellation of the Formula One race at the Imola circuit that was scheduled for the weekend.

The heavy rains that fell on the plains in the region over the course of two days caused about twenty rivers to overflow, flooding vast areas of land with water and evacuating thousands of residents.

“We saw from the window of the house (the second floor) the water gradually rising,” David Maldola, a resident of Cesena, told AFP, 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.

In neighboring 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.

Regional authorities confirmed nine deaths, mostly in the regions of Forlì and Cesena.

Thousands of farms in the fertile agricultural region were affected, but Agriculture Minister Francesco Lollobrigida said the waters must recede before the government can quantify the damage.

Divers recovered two bodies in Forlì on Wednesday morning, as part of a massive rescue effort involving emergency services, the armed forces and more than 1,000 volunteers.

– Seoul and mud –

Video footage showed relief workers carrying residents on 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 of emergency aid will be released, to be increased to the 10 million received as a gift since the last flood.

Flooding has caused the cancellation of Sunday’s Formula 1 Emilia-Romagna grand prix at Imola, with organizers saying they cannot guarantee the safety of fans, teams and staff.

– shock

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. “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 Forlì, where an AFP photographer saw people in shock as they fled on Tuesday night through floodwaters in the dark, barefoot.

Drought to flood

Elsewhere, locals swam down one of Cesena’s avenues to rescue a three-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 this in the future because unfortunately in recent years such heavy rains often fall,” Air Force meteorologist Paolo Capizzi told AFP.

He said global warming could not be blamed directly, but that “the ever-increasing frequency of this phenomenon could clearly be a consequence of ongoing climate change.”

On her way to the G7 summit in Japan, Prime Minister Georgia Meloni tweeted to confirm her support for those affected, and said the government was “ready to respond with the necessary aid.”

The rains are expected to subside Thursday in the flooded area.