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Weather chaos in Italy: 8 dead, several missing, thousands evacuated in Emilia-Romagna region

Weather chaos in Italy: Five dead, one missing, thousands evacuated in Emilia-Romagna region

Torrential rain and flooding in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region led to the deaths of five individuals and the evacuation of at least 5 000 people on Wednesday, May 17, 2023. The situation has been described as ‘dramatic,’ with the reality exceeding the worst predictions.

The northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna experienced devastating flooding on May 17, 2023, resulting in at least 5 confirmed deaths and the evacuation of thousands. Additionally, rescue teams are searching for a person reported missing in the province of Ravenna, feared to be another victim of the extreme weather. The deputy head of the Civil Protection Agency, Titti Postiglione, warned early Wednesday morning that further rainfall is expected in the coming hours, and the situation is predicted to become “very, very complicated.”

Fourteen rivers in the region overflowed, leading to dramatic rescue operations in cities such as Cesena, where residents stranded on rooftops were saved by firefighters using helicopters and rubber dinghies.

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Regional chief Stefano Bonaccini took to Facebook to issue a plea to the public. “Do not go near the rivers. Those who live in areas close to watercourses should move to higher floors,” he cautioned.

Transportation was significantly disrupted, with many roads and railway lines blocked. Mayors of multiple towns and cities, including Bologna, advised residents to stay at home. The city of Ravenna, situated near the Adriatic coast, was particularly hard hit by the floods.

Ravenna Mayor Michele de Pascale described the night to RAI public radio as “probably the worst night in the history of Romagna.” He reported that 5 000 people were evacuated from his city alone overnight. “Ravenna is unrecognizable for the damage it has suffered,” he lamented.

Emilia-Romagna Governor Stefano Bonaccini expressed that “the reality has exceeded the worst predictions.” Highlighting the severity of the situation, he mentioned, “the reality is really dramatic in many parts of Emilia-Romagna.” He added that the current rainfall had matched and, in some cases, exceeded that which fell two weeks ago, causing unprecedented flooding.

A resident from Faenza, in the province of Ravenna, described a swift and terrifying rise of water levels. The Lamone River, approximately 300 m (1 000 feet) away, burst its banks, causing water to rise almost to the first floor within minutes.

Meteorologists predict a cessation of the rain by mid-afternoon, providing some hope for those affected.

This is the second instance of severe weather causing destruction in Emilia-Romagna this month. Earlier in May, storms resulted in at least two fatalities.

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Updates

May 18

The death toll has climbed to eight, Governor Stefano Bonaccini said, adding that there are “some missing people” too, ANSA reported

Bonaccini expressed the region’s condolences to the victims of the extreme weather and their families and compared the disaster to the 2012 earthquakes that claimed 27 lives and caused massive devastation there.

Numerous individuals have been displaced from their homes, with 3 000 in Bologna, 5 000 in Faenza, and 5 000 in Ravenna province. The numbers are expected to increase.

Tragically, three victims were discovered in Forlì, including an elderly man swept away by the Montone River and a couple found in their flooded home in the Cava district.

In Ronta di Cesena, a 70-year-old man lost his life after the Savio River overflowed, and his wife’s body was discovered about 20 km (12.4 miles) away on Zadina beach near Cesenatico. Additionally, another individual was fatally struck by a landslide in Montiano nel Cesenate.

Civil Protection Minister Nello Musumeci reported that 50 000 residents are without electricity, while 100 000 mobile phone users and 10 000 landline customers are experiencing service disruptions.

References:

1 Emilia Romagna flooding: At least five dead – ANSA – May 17, 2023

2 Three dead and thousands evacuated as floods hit northern Italy – Reuters – May 17, 2023

3 Death toll of Emilia Romagna floods climbs to eight – ANSA – May 17, 2023

Featured image credit: Vigili del Fuoco (stillshot)

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