- 14 people are now confirmed dead after devastating floods hit Italy’s Emilia Romagna region this week.
- The latest victim to be found was a man recovered from a flooded house in Faenza.
- 10 000 people have been evacuated from their homes.
The toll from floods that have devastated the Emilia Romagna region in Italy rose to 14 on Friday, amid calls for the government to revive an abandoned project to mitigate the impact of natural disasters.
Authorities in Ravenna ordered the immediate evacuation of two small towns and issued an “extremely urgent” call for residents to reduce their movements to a minimum in the region, which was still subject to a red weather alert.
“The death toll has risen to 14,” a spokesperson for the region told AFP.
The latest victim to be found was a man recovered from a flooded house in Faenza, a picturesque city usually surrounded by green pastures and vineyards, left largely underwater after the fierce downpour earlier this week.
Nearly half of the 10 000 people evacuated from their homes spent the night in local refuge centres set up in gyms or hotels, with others receiving hot meals from mobile kitchens deployed in several cities.
A general view shows vans and cars on a flooded supermarket parking lot, caused by the flooding of the river Savio in the Ponte Vecchio district of Cesena, central eastern Italy, on May 17, 2023.
Locals in Faenza shovelled mud out of their homes, piling sodden mattresses, clothes and furniture together in mountains of waste.
In Ravenna, rain was still falling and mayor Massimo Isola described a “disastrous situation” in hamlets up in the hills surrounding the city.
As rescue workers searched for people still cut off by the waters, details emerged of the final moments of some of those who died.
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One, 75-year-old Giovanni Pavani, refused to leave his house Tuesday, telling his neighbour Marina Giocometti he had put sandbags along the windows and would be fine, according to the Corriere della Sera daily.
He was on the phone to her when waters began rushing in, telling her “I’m cold, so cold. The furniture’s floating around the house”, she said.
A pile of waste of mattresses, clothes and furniture coming from flooded homes is pictured on May 19, 2023 in Faenza, after floodwaters hit the Emilia-Romagna region
A flooded basement is pictured on May 19, 2023 in Faenza, after floodwaters hit the Emilia-Romagna region. The death toll from floods that have devastated northeastern Italy rose to 13 on May 18, according to media reports.
A resident cleans her flooded basement on May 19, 2023 in Faenza, after floodwaters hit the Emilia-Romagna region. The death toll from floods that have devastated northeastern Italy rose to 13 on May 18,
Giocometti told him to stand on the table, and she would call the emergency services, but the line suddenly cut out, she said.
The rescue of a three-year-old boy from his mother’s arms, as she stood outside her house in water up to her chest, calling for help, went viral on Wednesday.
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Fabiana, 36, told the paper Friday she would “never forget” the selflessness of the man – a Serbian cook called Dorde – who swam to her and took the boy, hoisting him onto his shoulder, before swimming him to safety.
I told my son it was a game and he had to climb as high as possible up whoever picked him up.
The downpour – which saw half a year’s rainfall in just 36 hours – caused billions of euros worth of damage and prompted questions nationally as to why more is not being done in terms of climate change mitigation.
In 2014, then prime minister Matteo Renzi set up a task force called Italia Sicura (Safe Italy), entrusted with flood and landslide prevention.
But it was scrapped in 2018 by Giuseppe Conte, head of a coalition government uniting the populist Five Star Movement and right-wing League, and replaced with a project that failed to get off the ground.