Shell-shocked Italians are struggling to come to terms with the ‘apocalyptic’ floods that have torn through their homes and killed at least eight people across northern Italy.
Thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes in the popular holiday region of Emilia-Romagna and this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix in Imola was cancelled after the deadly floods turned streets into fast-moving rivers.
Desperate families – including young children and the elderly – were forced to clamber onto their roofs in the tourist hotspot as they waited anxiously for rescuers to reach them in helicopters.
At least eight people have been killed in the region and there are fears the death toll will rise further as several people are missing amidst the carnage.
‘The city is on its knees, devastated and in pain,’ said Gian Luca Zattini, the mayor of Forli, a city near Bologna where three people were confirmed dead today. ‘It’s the end of the world.’
In the city of Cesena, in the Emilia-Romagna region, locals were forced to swim through the submerged streets, past sunken cars and floating furniture, to reach higher ground, as the mayor said the situation there is ‘critical’.
This photo provided by the Italian Coast guard shows a man on the roof of a flooded house just before being rescued by helicopter, in the area of the town of Faenza in the northern Italian region of Emilia Romagna on Wednesday
Flooded bungalows are pictured in Cesena on May 17, 2023 after heavy rains caused major floodings in central Italy
A family is rescued by the firefighters in Coccolia, near Ravenna, Central Italy, on Wednesday
Cesena, a shopping center completely flooded after the Savio river overflowed on Wednesday
Pictured: Damaged cars that were swept away in the floods are seen stranded in San Rocco district after the flooding of the Savio river on Wednesday
This weekend’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix has been called off due to extreme rain in Imola
A video shows one desperate mother clinging to her young daughter while frantically waving for help as the water rose up to her chest outside her home. Two men were seen racing to swim to reach the pair, with one placing the young girl above his head to stop her getting swept away in the fast-moving waters.
The girl was passed into the arms of other rescuers standing on a bank, while other neighbours helped her mother to safety after the Savio river burst its banks.
The extreme weather has extended to the Balkans. In Bosnia and Croatia, residents have watched in horror as their homes were quickly submerged by the floods. ‘We have an apocalypse,’ Amin Halitovic, the mayor of the Bosnian town of Bosanska Krupa said. ‘We can no longer count the flooded buildings. It’s never been like this.’
The devastating floods have seen eight people killed so far and 5,000 evacuated from 24 towns across the Emilia-Romagna region as the water ripped through their homes and turned streets into rivers.
A 70-year-old man died in his flooded home in the countryside outside Cesena. His wife was rescued.
Two further bodies were recovered by divers this morning in Forli after the Montone river burst its banks. The town’s mayor said the floods are the ‘worst situation’ the town has ever experienced.
Scores are missing from the region as rescuers search for those trapped in their homes after rivers swollen by days of downpours wreaked havoc across the north.
Emilia Romagna, one of Italy’s richest regions, had already been hit by heavy rain just a fortnight ago, causing floods that left two dead.
This time, around 50 centimetres (20 inches) of rain fell within 36 hours in Forli, Cesena and Ravenna – around half the normal annual rainfall, a situation ‘with few precedents’, Italy’s Civil Protection Minister Nello Musumeci said.
The deadly floods in the popular tourist hotspot have meant this weekend’s Italian Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix in Imola has been cancelled.
F1 chiefs said that because of the sheer scale of the flooding across the regions, they could not guarantee the safety of their fans, teams and staff, while adding it would ‘not be right to put further pressure’ on local authorities.
The mayor of Cesana today warned continued downpours in the Emilia-Romagna region could flood the Savio river and smaller tributaries for a second day as he urged residents to move to upper floors of their homes.
‘The situation could again become critical,’ Enzo Lattuca said. ‘We cannot in any way lower our guard.’
Italian Civil Protection Minister Nello Museumeci said some 5,000 people had been evacuated.
But the deputy chief of the Civil Protection agency, Titti Postiglione, said rescue operations for those needing emergency evacuations were particularly difficult given so many roads and routes were flooded and phone service interrupted.
Speaking on Sky TG24, she noted that the affected flood zone covered a broad swath of four provinces which, until the heavy rains, had been parched by a prolonged drought.
A video shows one desperate mother clinging to her young daughter while frantically waving for help as the water rose up to her chest outside her home
Two men were seen racing to swim to reach the pair, with one placing the young girl above his head (centre) to stop her getting swept away in the fast-moving waters
In the city of Cesena, in the hardest-hit northern Emilia-Romagna region, locals were forced to swim through the submerged streets, past sunken cars and floating furniture, to reach higher ground
Cesena, a shopping center completely flooded after the Savio river overflowed on Wednesday. Pictured: Submerged cars in Cesena, Italy
The damage caused by the flooding is seen here in Cesena, northern Italy, on Wednesday
The region of Emilia-Romagna has been the hardest-hit, with thousands of people evacuated from their homes
The flooding has wreaked havoc in Cesena, with thousands evacuated from their submerged homes on Wednesday
The F1 paddock at the Italian Emilia Romagna Grand Prix was under water today. The Grand Prix has now been cancelled
The deadly floods in the popular tourist hotspot has meant this weekend’s Italian Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix has been cancelled (pictured)
Regional President Stefano Bonaccini said Emilia-Romagna had been hit ‘like an earthquake’. Rescue workers had worked through the night to save children, the elderly and the disabled from the rising waters.
‘We’re scared, this time we’re scared,’ said Simona Matassoni, the owner of the Hotel Savio in Cesena, which has so far escaped flooding.
‘I was born here, I’ve seen lots of full rivers, but never anything like this,’ she told AFP by telephone on Wednesday morning, adding that it was still raining.
‘At the moment we’re crossing our fingers… but another flood is expected, so who knows (what will happen).’
Elsewhere in Italy, some 3,000 people had been evacuated from their homes in Bologna, while the mayor of Ravenna said some 5,000 people were being evacuated as a precaution. Around 50,000 people were without electricity.
Twenty-one rivers in the region had broken their banks between Tuesday and Wednesday, while 36 local authorities reported flooding and 48 reporting landslides.
The civil protection agency urged “maximum caution”, as mayors warned people to stay on high ground.
Meanwhile, rescue efforts across Italy are in full swing. Firefighters rescued a family with a four-month-old baby and a disabled man in the northern province of Pesaro and Urbino.
Some families were rescued from their rooftops and taken to safety, including a couple and their two young daughters.
The nearly 100,000 residents of Cesena were told to stay away from the raging waters and avoid ground floors if they live near the river.
‘Use prudence, don’t be curious, so disaster doesn’t turn into tragedy,’ Cesena mayor Enzo Lattuca said on television.
Some 900 people in flooded areas of northern Italy were evacuated by late last night, with some taking shelter in gyms or schools.
Rescuers save a man from the roof of his flooded home in the town of Faenza on Wednesday
The Nuovo Bridge of Cesena and the water of the Savio river reaches its limit and threatens to burst the banks in Cesena, Italy, on Wednesday
A home is nearly completely submerged in the flooded water in Ponte delle Grazie, near Ravenna, Italy, on Wednesday
Rescuers take people to safety in Forli after floods hit Italy’s northern Emilia-Romagna region
At least four people have died and thousands have been evacuated from their homes across northern Italy today as devastating floods triggered by torrential rain tore through dozens of towns. Pictured: Cars and homes were submerged in water in Cesena after the Savio river burst its banks on Wednesday
Cars are submerged in water in Cesena after the Savio river burst its banks on Wednesday
Speleological alpine rescuers search for missing persons in a flooded area near a supermarket in Cesena on May 17
Cars are submerged in a flooded street in Cesena, Italy, after heavy rains have caused major flooding on Wednesday
Local residents observe the aftermath of a flooding in a street of the San Rocco district of Cesena on May 17
In the tourist town of Ravenna in north-east Italy, authorities urged residents to move to upper storeys of buildings to ride out the storm. One person died there after their car became submerged in the water.
In Riccione, a beach town on the Adriatic Sea, the mayor warned people to stay home as some took to rubber dinghies to navigate submerged streets.
In the area between Ancona, a major Adriatic port, and Pesaro and Urbino, two towns popular with tourists, firefighters attended to 80 incidents related to the flooding including fallen trees, mudslides and trapped motorists.
Meteorologists have said Italy can expect several more days of heavy rain, pummelling the north which had for weeks been suffering a shortfall of rain.
Train travel was halted on the Bologna-Ancona and the Ravenna-Faenza routes, Italian media reported.
In the Balkans, the Una river burst its banks and submerged parts of northern Croatia and northwestern Bosia, 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 N1 network. ‘We can no longer count the flooded buildings. It’s never been like this.’
In Croatia, hundreds of soldiers and rescue teams continued bringing food and other necessities to people in flood-hit areas who have been isolated in their homes. No casualties have been reported so far.
A view of a road affected by a landslide in the aftermath of heavy rain in Fiorenzuola, Italy, on May 17
A road is blocked by a landslide caused by torrential rain in Fiorenzuola, Italy, on Wednesday
Flooded areas in Faenza, one of the cities most affected by the flooding of the Lamone river, in Ponte delle Grazie, near Ravenna, Italy, on Wendesday
Local residents observe the aftermath of a flooding in a street of the San Rocco district of Cesena on May 17 as more heavy rain is expected for several days
A local resident cleans the mud from his home in the aftermath of flooding in San Rocco district of Cesena on May 17
In the city of Cesena, in the hardest-hit northern Emilia-Romagna region, streets have been turned into rivers
This photo provided by the Italian Carabinieri police shows flooded fields in the northern Italian region of Emilia Romagna, on Wednesday
Speleological alpine rescuers search for missing persons near a flooded supermarket in Cesena on May 17
A speleological alpine rescuer looks in a car for missing persons near a supermarket in a flooded area in Cesena on Wednesday
An elderly man walks in a street damaged by the flooding of the San Rocco district of Cesena on May 17
A man walks through a muddy street amid heavy rain in the San Rocco district of Cesena on Wednesday
Elsewhere in the north of Italy, authorities in Venice are preparing to activate a mobile barrier in the lagoon the hopes of sparing the city from the rare May high-tide flooding.
The barrier system, known by its acronym Moses, and recalling the Biblical account of the Red Sea parting, will be lifted tonight for the first time in May.
It is nearly 20 years since construction began on the project, which is still not completed.
This month, a day and a half of non-stop rain caused flooding in the Emilia-Romagna region, leaving at least two people dead as riverbeds left dry by drought overflowed.
The rainfall came as Italy had been bracing for a second year of drought, which has depleted its largest river, the Po. The river supports agriculture in the vast Po River Valley before emptying into the Adriatic Sea east of Bologna.
While north-east Italy was hardest hit by the downpours, flooding also caused damage in the south.
On the island of Sicily, rescuers responded to flooding, fallen trees and other problems in the countryside between Palermo and Trapani. By yesterday morning, the weather there was improving, firefighters said.
Pedestrians walk in a flooded street of the San Rocco district of Cesena, Italy, on Wednesday
A man with a board attempts to surf along the muddied streets of Bologna, Italy, following the flooding on Wednesday
A dog walks in the flooded San Rocco district of Cesena on May 17. The torrential rain damaged homes and cars
A view of high river level due to heavy rain in Fiorenzuola, Italy, on May 17. More rain is expected in the coming days
CROATIA: This aerial photo taken on May 16 shows high water level of river Una due to heavy rain in Kostajnica, Croatia
CROATIA: A member of civil defence wades through flooding waters in Obrovac, Croatia, on Tuesday after the river burst its banks
CROATIA: Locals placed sand bags to try to protect their homes from the flooding in Obrovac, Croatia
Rescuers wade through floodwaters during rescue operations in Forli after floods hit Italy’s northern Emilia-Romagna region in the early hours of Wednesday morning
Firefighters and rescuers are seen next to boats during rescue operations in Faenza
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