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Monday, July 22, 2024

Floods ravage northern Italy, killing 8 and displacing thousands

ROME – At least eight people have died and thousands more have been forced to leave their homes as heavy rains caused severe flooding in northern Italy, officials said on Wednesday.

The worst-hit area was Romagna, the eastern part of the Emilia-Romagna region, where several rivers overflowed and inundated towns and villages along the Adriatic coast.

One of the victims was a 67-year-old man who drowned in his car after trying to cross a flooded road in Cesena, local media reported. Another was a 54-year-old woman who was swept away by a torrent in Forli, where three other people were still missing.

Firefighters rescued hundreds of people who were trapped on rooftops or in cars by the rising waters, using helicopters or rubber boats. Some residents were evacuated to hotels or sports centers, while others sought shelter with relatives or friends.

“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 said the government was closely following events and stood ready to provide help.

The deputy head of the Civil Protection Agency, Titti Postiglione, warned that the situation was still critical and that more rain was expected in the coming hours.

“We are facing a very, very complicated situation,” she told SkyTG24 news channel.

She said the floods were exacerbated by weeks of drought that had dried out the soil and reduced its capacity to absorb water.

Weather-related disasters are on the increase in Italy. In October 2023, flash floods killed six people in Naples and caused widespread damage across southern Italy. In November 2023, Venice was hit by its worst flooding in more than 50 years, prompting a state of emergency and raising concerns about its cultural heritage.

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