- Floods were recorded in 37 towns and cities
- Imola F1 Grand Prix has been cancelled
- The rains have subsided, but the river levels are still rising
ROME (Reuters) – Nine people have died and thousands evacuated from their homes after torrential rains hit the northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna, triggering floods and landslides, officials said on Wednesday.
Civil Protection Minister Nilo Musumesi said some areas had received half of their average annual rainfall in just 36 hours, causing rivers to flood their banks, sending water rushing through cities and inundating thousands of acres of farmland.
Sunday’s Formula 1 Grand Prix in Imola, which is close to several of the hardest-hit areas, has been canceled in an effort to relieve pressure on emergency services and prevent motor racing fans from gathering in the flooded area.
“We are facing catastrophic events that we may not have seen before,” Stefano Bonaccini, head of the Emilia-Romagna region, told reporters. “Extraordinary amounts of rain fell on a land that could no longer absorb it.”
The port city of Ravenna on the Adriatic Sea, famous for its early Christian heritage sites, was hit hard. A representative of the local Ministry of Interior said that about 14,000 people would have to be evacuated from the area as soon as possible.
Authorities said the floods affected 37 towns and communities and some 120 landslides were recorded. At least one bridge has collapsed near the city of Bologna, some roads have been undermined by floodwaters and many rail services have been halted.
Bonacini said nine bodies had been recovered from different locations. Erin Priollo, the district’s deputy chief, told reporters that although rainfall has decreased, river levels are still rising.
Civil Protection Minister Musumechi said he would ask the cabinet to allocate 20 million euros ($22 million) to the affected region when it meets on May 23 to discuss relief measures.
Government officials said tax and mortgage payments would be suspended in flood-affected areas during the emergency.
Floods after months of drought
It is the second time this month that Emilia-Romagna has been affected by bad weather, with at least two people dying during storms at the beginning of May.
Meteorologists said the heavy rains of the dry months dried up the land, reducing its ability to absorb water and adding to the impact of floods.
Muddy water flowed through the historic centers of Faenza, Cesena and Forlì, flooding the roofs of parked cars, flooding some shops and forcing locals to flee to the upper floors of their homes.
Drone footage from the Imola racetrack showed part of the circuit area underwater. Organizers said the decision to cancel the Grand Prix was taken “because it is not possible to hold the event safely for our fans, teams and employees”.
“It was probably the worst night in Romania’s history,” Ravenna’s mayor Michele de Pascal told RAI public radio, adding that 5,000 people were evacuated from his city on Tuesday night.
“Ravenna is unrecognizable after the damage done to her.”
Minister Musumesi said between 200mm and 500mm of rain fell in some parts of the district in a day and a half, compared to the average annual rainfall of 1,000mm.
($1 = 0.9084 euros)
(Reporting by Elvis Armellini; Editing by Christina Fincher)
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