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Northern Italy Hit by Deadly Floods, Killing at Least 14 and Displacing Over 10,000

Published: May 19, 2023
Firefighters rescuers evacuate residents in a dinghy across a flooded street after heavy rains caused flooding across Italy's northern Emilia Romagna region, on May 19, 2023 in Lugo, Italy. Fourteen people have died and thousands have been evacuated from their homes after torrential rain wreaked mayhem in the northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna, causing severe flooding and landslides. (Image: Antonio Masiello/Getty Images)

At least 14 people have been confirmed dead, while another 13,000 were displaced in northern Italy’s Emilia-Romagna as of May 19, with the region currently facing one of its most violent flood emergencies in decades. Many rivers have overflowed, producing vast floods that have invaded cities, towns, and countryside. 

In a May 18 statement, the regional government said that there were currently around 34,000 homes without electricity, while the region’s governor Stefano Bonaccini gave a provisional estimate saying that there could be “several billion euros of damage,” according to various Italian media. But it is still too early for a definitive count. 

More than 40 municipalities were involved and 280 landslides were recorded throughout the region, with the province of Forlì-Cesena and Ravenna among the hardest hit. More than 5,000 farms have suffered more or less serious damage, with agriculture firm Coldiretti monitoring the overall situation. 

For the second time in about 15 days, some of these areas experienced 500 millimeters (about 20 inches) of rain in just a few hours, compared with the annual average of about 1,000 mm. In other words, Emilia-Romagna saw half a year’s worth of rain in less than one day.

A man stands outside his house on a flooded road after heavy rains caused flooding across Italy’s northern Emilia Romagna region, on May 19, 2023 in Lugo, Italy. (Image: Antonio Masiello/Getty Images)

In his statement, Bonaccini added that an extraordinary commissioner and special regulations are needed to speed up the recovery. He also asked the government for an extension of tax deadlines and mortgage repayments for citizens in the affected areas. 

In a tweet from the afternoon of May 17, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said she was “deeply grateful to the men and women engaged in these hours in rescue operations to help the populations affected by the severe weather, risking their own lives to save the lives of others. Thank you for your extraordinary work.”

Meloni was able to connect via teleconference with the National Civil Defence leadership from Alaska, while on a stopover on her way to Hiroshima, Japan, where she attended the G7 in Japan, together with the other heads of state and government. The prime minister promised quick and decisive action to bring aid and economic relief to the disaster-stricken areas.

By Gabriele Esposito.