In Italy, a devastating flood has wreaked havoc as more than 20 rivers overflowed, resulting in nine casualties and forcing 13,000 people to flee their homes. The region experienced an unprecedented amount of rainfall, equivalent to six months’ worth, within just 36 hours. The deluge affected nearly every river spanning from the northeast coast at Rimini to the city of Bologna, approximately 115 kilometers (70 miles) away. Additionally, around 280 landslides occurred, prompting further evacuations.
The calamity left a trail of destruction, with residents recounting their harrowing experiences. Seventy-one-year-old Roberta Lazzarini from Botteghino di Zocca, south of Bologna, described how their entire village was engulfed by water and mud. Streets, houses, and gardens were inundated, leaving residents frightened and unsure of what to do. Lazzarini expressed hope that such a catastrophe would not be repeated, emphasizing that she had never witnessed anything of this magnitude in her locality.
Firefighters played a crucial role in rescuing residents, including a 97-year-old woman who had to be evacuated from her bedroom using a rubber dinghy. Ines, the daughter of Roberta Lazzarini, who manages the local cafe in the central square, lamented the devastating impact on the community. She expressed a sense of isolation and terror, as the floodwaters cut off their village entirely.
The flooding also led to severe economic losses for local businesses. Lamieri, a 74-year-old shop owner in central Bologna, shared how his basement was filled with mud, damaging the products he sells at his souvenir shop. The street in front of his establishment turned into a raging river, resulting in the loss of valuable inventory. Lamieri estimated the damage to be worth thousands of euros.
The province of Emilia-Romagna witnessed numerous villages and towns submerged, not only due to overflowing rivers but also from canals bursting their banks. The Lamone river caused additional evacuations west of Ravenna, and the damage costs incurred in the Emilia-Romagna region are expected to reach billions of euros. The historic center of Lugo was flooded, necessitating evacuations, while Cervi, located on the coast, experienced a similar fate.
The adverse weather conditions even affected scheduled events in the region. The Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix, set to take place at Imola, had to be canceled due to the risk of the nearby Santerno river flooding. Areas around the racetrack, utilized for parking and spectator viewing, were submerged earlier in the week. Despite the regional disaster, a Bruce Springsteen rock concert was still planned in Ferrara, further north. The decision to proceed with the concert received criticism from local councillor Anna Ferraresi, who believed it disregarded the plight of thousands of affected individuals.
This disaster has prompted calls for Italy to establish a national plan to address the consequences of climate change. Nello Musumeci, the Civil Protection Minister, highlighted that the country was already experiencing tropical conditions, with rainfall reaching up to 20 centimeters (8 inches) in just 36 hours, and even up to 50 centimeters (20 inches) in some areas. Musumeci stressed the urgent need for a new approach to hydraulic engineering as the absence of regional dams in the past four decades contributed to the severity of the flooding. In response to the crisis, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s government has scheduled a crisis meeting for next Tuesday.
The catastrophe saw the Zena stream in Botteghino di Zocca transform into a violent torrent, compounding the destruction in the region.