Unusual rains in drought-stricken northern Italy kill 8 and cancel Formula 1 Grand Prix

IMOLA, Italy (AP) – Unusual rains Wednesday in a drought-stricken region of northern Italy swelled rivers on their banks, killing at least eight people, forcing the evacuation of thousands and prompting officials to warn that Italy needs a national plan to tackle climate change-induced floods.

Heavy rain also forced Formula 1 to cancel this weekend’s Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix to avoid overloading emergency crews who were already exhausted responding to rivers of mud that tore through the area, making havoc on infrastructure and homes.

Days of rainstorms spread across a wide swath of northern Italy and the Balkans, where flooding, landslides and “apocalyptic” evacuations were also reported in Croatia, Bosnia and Slovenia.

Emilia-Romagna Deputy Governor Irene Priolo said eight people were killed and others missing in the floods that forced the evacuation of more than 10,000 people.

Among the dead was a farmer who defied floodwaters to try to salvage equipment on his property, officials said. His wife was among the missing.

Rescue helicopters tore people off rooftops as floodwaters rose higher and higher into homes. During a rescue, a Coastguard member pulled a woman out of a skylight in her house and hugged her while the two were winched to a hovering helicopter and pulled inside.

“Even the upper floors are no longer safe,” Gian Luca Zattini, mayor of Forli’, one of the hardest-hit towns, told Sky TG24 TV.

Italian Civil Protection Minister Nello Musumeci has called for a new national hydraulic engineering plan to adapt to the impact of increasing incidents of floods and landslides. In a briefing, he noted that an average of 200 millimeters (7.9 inches) of rain had fallen in 36 hours in the region, with some areas recording 500 millimeters (19.7 inches) over that period.

“If you consider that this region receives an average of 1,000 millimeters (39.3 inches) of rain per year, you realize the impact that these rains had during those hours,” Musumeci said.

Citing the November landslide in Ischia, which killed a dozen people, he said Italy is increasingly experiencing a tropical climate seen in parts of Africa and other parts of the world, with long periods of drought punctuated by intense rainfall that cannot be absorbed by the ground.

“Nothing will ever be the same again…and what happened during those hours is proof of that,” Musumeci said. “When the ground remains dry for a long time, instead of increasing its absorptive capacity, it ends up cementing itself and allowing precipitation to continue to flow on the surface and cause absolutely unimaginable damage.”

Italy’s vulnerability to climate change-induced flooding is compounded by already fragile hydrological conditions in much of the country. Italy must also tackle the decades-long practice of people building in areas prone to landslides or floods – homes that are often allowed to remain in place through occasional government amnesties.

Cesena town mayor Enzo Lattuca posted a video early Wednesday on Facebook warning that continued downpours in the Emilia-Romagna region could flood the Savio River and smaller tributaries for a second day. He urged residents to move to the upper floors of their homes and avoid low areas and riverbanks.

Musumeci said 50,000 people lost power and more than 100,000 lost the use of their cellphones or landlines.

Many residents who evacuate their homes put their vital possessions in the dinghies they normally tow every summer to the region’s thriving resorts on the Adriatic Sea and pull them through the flooded streets.

Deputy head of the civil protection agency, Titti Postiglione, said rescue operations for people in need of emergency evacuation were particularly difficult given that many roads and roads were flooded and telephone service was interrupted. .

Some regional rail links remained suspended around Bologna and Ravenna on Wednesday, with major delays elsewhere, the Italian rail company said.

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who was traveling to the G-7 meeting in Japan, said the government was monitoring the situation and was ready to approve emergency aid.

In the Balkans, the swollen Una River inundated parts of northern Croatia and northwestern Bosnia, where authorities announced a state of emergency. The mayor of the town of Bosanska Krupa in Bosnia said hundreds of homes had been flooded.

“We have an apocalypse,” Amin Halitovic told regional network N1. “There are countless flooded buildings. It was never like this.

Dozens of landslides have been reported in eastern Slovenia, many of which have endangered homes and infrastructure.

In Croatia, hundreds of soldiers and relief teams have continued to deliver food and other essentials to residents of flood-affected areas who have been isolated in their homes. No casualties have been reported so far.


This story has been corrected to show that the Italian Civil Protection Minister’s surname is Musumeci, not Musemeci. An earlier version has been corrected to show Meloni was on his way to Japan and not returning home.


Winfield reported from Rome. Jovana Gec contributed from Belgrade, Serbia, and Frances D’Emilio contributed from Rome.

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