(Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP via Getty Images)
OAN’s Brooke Mallory
6:32 PM – Thursday, May 18, 2023
After an estimated six months’ worth of rain fell in a day and a half, more than 20 rivers in Italy burst their banks, displacing thousands of people and animals from their homes and resulting in the deaths of 13.
After nearly every river between Bologna and the north-east coast, about 115km (70 miles) distant, overflowed on Thursday, more bodies were discovered. There have also been 280 landslides so far.
The mayor of Ravenna, a severely flooded city, made a statement saying that this was the biggest calamity for the area in a century.
According to Michele de Pascale, the floods’ catastrophic damage cost residents of his city and the surrounding area their houses, livestock, gardens, farmland, valuables, and in some cases, their own lives.
“It was a very bad 48 hours. Water and mud took over our whole village,” said 71-year-old Roberta Lazzarini.
On Wednesday, a torrent devastated her hometown of Botteghino di Zocca, which is located south of Bologna.
“I’ve never seen anything like that here. We were stuck and didn’t know what to do. I just hope it doesn’t happen again.”
Another local homeowner, a 97-year-old woman who was forced to leave her bedroom in a rubber raft, was reportedly assisted by firefighters in order to safely vacate her residence.
“Our community is broken,” said Roberta’s daughter, Ines, who runs a local cafe. “We felt completely cut out, isolated, some of us were truly terrified.”
“We’ve had floods before, but it has never been this bad as far as I can remember,” said Lamieri, 74, as he removed layers of mud from his basement. “The street turned into river. We lost all of our stuff which was stored down here. We estimate thousands of euros in damage.”
This is just one of several towns and villages in the Emilia-Romagna area that have been inundated, not just by rivers, but also by overflowing canals.
On Thursday, there were additional evacuations west of Ravenna, and more bodies were discovered, including a couple in a flat in a flooded village of Russi.
There is a growing consensus that Italy will require a new national “climate change response strategy.” Nello Musumeci, the minister of civil protection, said that tropical weather has already arrived with 20 cm of rain dropping in only 36 hours and up to 50 cm in some places.
“Soils that remain dry for a long time end up becoming cemented, drastically limiting their capacity to absorb water,” Musumeci said.
He claimed that because there had not been any regional dam construction for 40 years, hydraulic engineering required a fresh strategy.
The administration of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has scheduled a crisis meeting for next Tuesday.
Former vice-president of Emilia-Romagna, Elly Schlein, claimed that previous administrations had repeatedly failed to handle Italy’s susceptibility to flooding and other extreme water events like droughts.
Attorney Antonio Francesco Rizzuto, 55, and his wife were evicted from their riverside home on Tuesday night. They are currently staying with their daughter in a neighboring village.
“It was something no-one was expecting in these proportions,” he said. “Before we left our house, the water level was getting higher by the minute. When we got back yesterday… Our living room was completely submerged. We will have to throw away most of our furniture.”
The Emilia-Romagna region’s regional president, Stefano Bonaccini, estimated that the damage expenses could be in the billions (euros).
Towns west of Ravenna received orders to evacuate over the course of the night. A day after floodwaters poured over Lugo’s historic center, residents of Villanova were told to take refuge on higher floors. On Thursday, Cervi on the coast and Lugo were both inundated once more.
“I’ve lived here for 70 years and I’ve never seen anything like this… The water is everywhere,” said Lino Lenzi, 80.
Lino also grumbled that the nearby rivers had not been dredged in a while.
“No one has showed up to help. We’ve received zero help from the government or local authority.”
Due to the numerous flooded roadways and power outages in many communities, rescue operations have proven challenging. The only assistance Lino had received was from a young man who lived nearby.
“He walked past and saw that we needed help. He helped us move our furniture.”
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