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Death toll sits at 9 as floods ravage Italy

By Sarah May on
 May 18, 2023

Torrential amounts of rain in a northern Italian region already beset by drought have produced catastrophic flooding that has claimed the lives of nine and sent thousands fleeing from their homes, as Reuters reports.

The disaster has been unfolding in the Emilia-Romagna region, and according to Italian officials, certain areas have seen roughly half of a year's worth of precipitation within a span of just 36 hours.

Floods Sweep Across Northern Italy

With authorities reporting that upwards of 27 towns and cities had been hit with flooding thus far, and 120 landslides already on record as having occurred, the scope of the devastation has been inescapable.

Stefano Bonaccini, president of Emilia-Romagna explained, “We are facing catastrophic events that have probably not been seen before.”

“Extraordinary amounts of rain have fallen on land no longer capable of absorbing them,” he added.

Making the events all the more tragic, nine bodies have been found in various locales thus far, according to Bonaccini, with approximately 14,000 residents in the coastal area near Ravenna having to undergo evacuation procedures.

Human Toll Continues to Climb

According to the Associated Press, among those who have perished in the flooding so far was a farmer who attempted to save his equipment from the rising waters, and, sadly, his wife was also counted among those still missing.

The Daily Mail reported that in another horrific outcome caused by the flooding, a 60-year-old woman was found dead on the beach near the town of Cesenatico, her body having traveled 12 miles down an area river.

Another three victims lost their lives in Forli, a town situated near Bologna, whose mayor, Gian Luca Zattini, declared, “The city is on its knees, devastated and in pain.”

“It's the end of the world,” Zattini despaired.

Scenes of Desperation

Terrified residents attempting to escape the devastation were seen swimming through the submerged roadways in Cesena, propelling themselves past floating household goods and cars filled with water, as the Mail noted.

Rescue crews piloting helicopters were attempting to pull people from rooftops as the interior of their homes began to fill with water, according to the AP.

Zattini explained that at least in Forli, “Even upper floors aren't safe anymore.”

Dramatic video footage showed a frantic mother holding tight to her small child while attempting to summon help amid rising waters, and fortunately, two men were able to join forces with other neighbors to bring the pair separately to safety, according to the Mail.

What Comes Next

The upheaval in Emilia-Romagna has been so severe that organizers of the scheduled Formula One Grand Prix decided to cancel this weekend's race, as the Associated Press noted separately.

Officials with the sporting organization said that the event was scuttled in order to avoid placing additional demands on local emergency services and to stop the potential influx of additional people into the already-overwhelmed area as it begins the next phase of its response.

Governmental authorities in the hard-hit areas have already vowed to pause tax and mortgage payments for the duration of the flood emergency, according to Reuters, measures which may be deemed necessary for an extended period of cleanup and recovery.

In terms of longer-term solutions, however, Italian Civil Protection Minster Nello Musumeci has issued a call for the development of a new, nationwide hydraulic engineering strategy meant to address more frequent floods and accompanying landslides, with the government official profoundly lamenting that in the wake of the latest deluge, “[n]othing will ever be the same again.”