- Floods were recorded in 37 towns and cities
- The Formula 1 race at Imola has been cancelled
- The rains have subsided, but the river levels are still rising
ROME (Reuters) – At least eight people have been killed and thousands evacuated from their homes after heavy rains hit northern Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region, causing floods and landslides, officials said on Wednesday.
Civil Protection Minister Nilo Musumesi said some areas had received half of their average annual rainfall in just 36 hours, causing rivers to flood their banks, sending water rushing through cities and inundating thousands of acres of farmland.
This weekend’s Formula One Grand Prix has been canceled at Imola, which is near several of the hardest-hit areas, in a bid to relieve pressure on emergency services and prevent motor racing fans from converging on the groggy area.
“We are facing catastrophic events that we may not have seen before,” Stefano Bonaccini, head of the Emilia-Romagna region, told reporters. “Extraordinary amounts of rain fell on a land that could no longer absorb it.”
Local authorities said the floods affected 37 towns and communities and some 120 landslides were recorded. At least one bridge has collapsed near the city of Bologna, some roads have cracked and many rail services have stopped.
Eight bodies have been recovered from different locations, Emilia-Romagna vice-president Irene Priollo told reporters, adding that although rainfall has decreased, river levels are still rising.
It is the second time this month that Emilia-Romagna has been affected by bad weather, with at least two people dying during storms at the beginning of May.
Meteorologists said that the floods came after months of drought, which led to the drying of the land and reduced its ability to absorb water and exacerbated the impact of the floods.
Muddy water flowed through the historic centers of Faenza, Cesena and Forlì, flooding the roofs of parked cars, flooding some shops and forcing locals to flee to the upper floors of their homes.
Drone footage from a nearby Formula 1 circuit showed part of the circuit area underwater. Race organizers said the decision to cancel the Grand Prix was taken “because the event cannot be held safely for our fans, teams and staff”.
The northern city of Ravenna, famous for its early Christian heritage sites, was also badly affected.
“It was probably the worst night in Romania’s history,” Ravenna’s mayor Michele de Pascal told RAI public radio, adding that 5,000 people were evacuated from his city alone overnight.
“Ravenna is unrecognizable due to the damage she has sustained.”
Minister Musumesi said between 200mm and 500mm of rain fell in some parts of the district in a day and a half, compared to an annual average of 1,000mm of precipitation.
(Reporting by Elvis Armellini; Editing by Christina Fincher)
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