Kuala Lumpur Post


9 dead, Grand Prix cancelled after flooding devastates northern Italy

CESENA— At least nine people died in Italy’s northern Emilia Romagna region as heavy rains flooded rivers and submerged entire neighbourhoods and farmland yesterday, prompting the cancellation of this weekend’s Imola Grand Prix.

Downpours that pounded the region’s flatlands over two days caused nearly two dozen rivers to burst their banks, putting vast stretches of territory under water and causing thousands of residents to be evacuated.

“We watched from the (second-floor) window as the water gradually rose,” Cesena resident Davide Maeldolla told AFP, pausing from mucking out his inundated home, where the water had risen as high as 1.5 metres.

“The helicopters circled all night to rescue people.”

In nearby Forli, southeast of the regional capital Bologna, Mayor Gian Luca Zattini said his city was “on its knees, devastated and in pain.”

“It’s the end of the world,” Zattini said.

Regional authorities confirmed nine dead, with most in the area around Forli and Cesena.

Flooding occurred in 41 municipalities, while an even greater number reported landslides.

Thousands of farms in the fertile agricultural area were affected, but Agriculture Minister Francesco Lollobrigida said the water would have to subside before the government could quantify the damage.

Two of the bodies in Forli were recovered by divers on Wednesday morning, as part of a huge rescue effort involving emergency services, armed forces and over 1,000 volunteers.

Torrents and thick mud

Television images showed emergency workers carrying residents across flooded streets or transported in inflatable boats, vast parking lots completely submerged in water, while torrents of water rushed through the Unesco-recognised porticoes of Bologna.

A video taken by Italy’s coastguard showed rescuers in a helicopter pulling up two elderly people from the roof of a home where the water level had nearly covered the first-floor windows.

Cars were submerged and in areas where the water had receded, the streets were filled with thick mud and debris. — AFP

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