Three dead and thousands evacuated as floods hit northern Italy

An aerial view shows a flooded area after heavy rains hit Italy's Emilia Romagna region, in Massa Lombarda, Italy, May 2, 2023. Vigili del Fuoco/Handout via REUTERS

Three people died and thousands were evacuated from their homes as devastating floods hit Italy’s northern Emilia-Romagna region, authorities said on Wednesday, warning that worse may be yet to come.

“Rainfall is not over, it will continue for several hours,” the deputy head of the Civil Protection Agency, Titti Postiglione, told the SkyTG24 news channel. “We are facing a very, very complicated situation.”

She said several people were missing, but could not give an exact number. RAI public television and other media said at least four people were unaccounted for, one in Cesena and three in nearby Forli.

Several rivers broke their banks in Romagna, the eastern part of the region facing the Adriatic sea, forcing people in cities like Cesena to climb to the roof of their buildings where firefighters rescued them with helicopters or rubber dinghies.

Ravenna was also heavily affected.

“It’s probably been the worst night in the history of Romagna,” Ravenna Mayor Michele de Pascale told RAI public radio, saying that 5,000 people had been evacuated from his city alone overnight.

“Ravenna is unrecognisable for the damage it has suffered.”

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni expressed her “total closeness to the affected population” and, writing on Twitter, said the government was closely following events and stood ready to provide help.

Weather-related disasters are on the increase in Italy. Heavy rainfall in Emilia-Romagna followed weeks of drought which dried out the land, reducing its capacity to absorb water and worsening the impact of the floods.


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