Five killed in floods in northern Italy, Grand Prix postponed


Five people have died and thousands have fled their homes after heavy rains swept through the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy, canceling this weekend’s Imola Grand Prix, officials said Wednesday.

“The city is prostrate, devastated and in pain,” said Gian Luca Zattini, mayor of Forlì, a city near Bologna where three people died. “It’s the end of the world.”

Two of Forlì’s bodies were recovered by divers Wednesday morning as part of a larger rescue operation involving emergency services and the military.

“In total, three people died in Forlì, one in Cesena and one in Cesenatico,” a local official told AFP, possibly referring to the German man previously reported missing. rice field.

One of Italy’s wealthiest regions, Emilia-Romagna, has already been hit by heavy rains just two weeks ago, causing flooding and two deaths.

This time around 50 centimeters (20 inches) of rain fell within 36 hours in Forlì, Cesena and Ravenna. This is about half the normal annual rainfall, a situation “almost without precedent,” said Civil Protection Minister Nero Muschi.

“It’s still a very critical situation,” he told reporters, adding that the rain was still falling but was expected to ease during the day.

Sunday’s Formula 1 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola has been canceled due to flooding.

Organizers said they could not guarantee the safety of fans, teams and staff.

“It is not appropriate to put further pressure on local authorities and emergency services during this difficult time,” they said.

– “We are scared” –

Rescue workers worked through the night to save children, the elderly and the disabled from rising water.

“We are scared. We are scared this time,” said Simona Matassoni, owner of Hotel Savio in Cesena, which has escaped flooding so far.

“I was born here and have seen many rivers full, but nothing like this,” she told AFP by phone, adding that it was still raining.

“It’s a close call at the moment, but another flood is expected, so who knows (what will happen).”

Musumesi said an estimated 4,000 people had been evacuated from their homes and about 50,000 people were without power.

All rivers in the region had their banks breached between Tuesday and Wednesday, and 24 local governments reported flooding.

The civil protection agency called for “maximum vigilance” as mayors warned people to stay on higher ground.

An AFP photographer saw people in Forli late Tuesday in shock, barefoot and fleeing floodwaters in the dark.

Images showed roads turning into rivers and firefighters moving people to safety in rubber boats.

~ Meloni Pledges Support ~

Elsewhere, muddy water rushed under covered sidewalk arches in Bologna, and in Cesena, locals swam down the road to rescue a 3-year-old.

“We must never let our guard down,” Cesena mayor Enzo Latucca said on Facebook.

Residents should “not go into basements or cellars for any reason” and “stay away from ground floors if possible,” he said.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, en route to Japan’s G7 summit, tweeted support for the victims, saying the government was “ready to intervene with necessary aid”.

In addition to a record lack of rain last summer that wrecked crops, much of northern Italy was hit by drought last winter.

However, spring was wetter and colder than normal across the country.