Floods kill at least 10 in Italy, dozens are saved by roofs and trees: “It was a tsunami”

Floods triggered by heavy rains wiped out several cities in a hilly region of central Italy early Friday, killing 10 people and at least four missing, authorities said. Dozens of survivors climbed onto roofs or trees waiting for help.

“It was not a water bomb, it was a tsunami,” Riccardo Pasqualini, the mayor of Barbara, told state radio, speaking of the sudden downpour on Thursday evening that devastated his small town in the Marche region, near the Adriatic Sea.

This image released by the Italian firefighters shows an aerial view of the Senigallia area after floods hit the Marche region in central-eastern Italy on September 16, 2022.
This image released by the Italian firefighters shows an aerial view of the Senigallia area after floods hit the Marche region in central-eastern Italy on September 16, 2022.

Italian fire brigade – Fire brigade via AP

He said the flooding left Barbara’s 1,300 residents without clean water and unpredictable telephone service. A mother and her young daughter went missing after trying to escape the flood, the mayor told Italian news agency ANSA.

While firefighters reported at least seven confirmed deaths and three missing, RAI state TV quoted the local prefect’s office as saying there were 10 confirmed deaths. Two children, including a boy swept from Barbara’s mother’s arms, were among the four people still missing late Friday morning.

About 50 people were treated in hospitals for their injuries.

Many of the 300 firefighters engaged in the rescue operations waded waist-deep in flooded streets, while others used rubber boats to collect survivors along their path.

Firefighters tweeted that dozens of people who were trapped in cars or climbed rooftops or climbed trees to escape the increasing floods had been rescued. Aerial shots published by the firefighters showed the devastation.

Police officers from the municipality of Sassoferrato told of the rescue of a man trapped in a car. Unable to reach it, they stretched out a long branch, which the man clung to and then the agents pulled him to safety.

Helicopters were also used to rescue seven people in the most remote locations of the Apennines, which form the backbone of central Italy.

Reuters footage showed flash floods left a trail of trapped and damaged cars.

“My fruit shop has been turned upside down,” Luciana Agostinelli, a local resident, told Reuters.

Floods invaded garages and basements and with its weight and strength knocked down the doors.

“It was an extreme event, more than an exceptional one,” climate scientist Massimiliano Fazzini told Italian state TV. He said that, according to his own calculations, the amount of rain fell concentrated on four hours which included a particularly intense period of 15 minutes, which was the maximum in hundreds of years.

Within hours, the region was flooded with the amount of rainfall it usually receives in six months, state TV said.

Some of the worst floods have occurred in and around the city of Senigallia, where a river has overflowed its banks. Even the hilltop villages near the Renaissance tourist town of Urbino were flooded as fast-moving rivers of water, mud, and debris flowed through the streets.

Storms trigger climate change debate ahead of the elections

The tragedy occurred a few days before the general elections on 25 September and condolences for those affected came from across the political spectrum.

Favorite Giorgia Meloni, whose far-right Brothers of Italy party hopes to become prime minister, offered “full solidarity” to those affected.

The president of the Ancona region of the Marche is a member of his party.

The flood came after a drought in Italy, and many have traced the link climate change – a subject who took a back seat during the election campaign.

“How can we think that the fight against climate change is not the first priority?” said Meloni’s main rival, Enrico Letta, head of the center-left Democratic Party.

He said he was “stunned and speechless” by the news from the Marche, saying he was suspending the election campaign in the region.

Francesco Rocca, president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said his teams are heading to help.

“Very concerned about the rise of extreme weather events,” he said on Twitter.

This summer’s drought, the worst in 70 years, dried up the river Po, the largest reservoir in Italy.

The scorching heat in recent weeks has been followed by storms, the flooded earth has become hard as concrete.

In July, 11 people were killed when a section of The largest alpine glacier in Italy has collapsedin a disaster, officials blamed climate change.

The EU Commissioner for Economy, Paolo Gentiloni, former Italian Prime Minister, said he wept for the victims of the flood in the Marche.

“Italy and Europe must take climate change seriously,” he tweeted.

Paola Pino d’Astore, an expert with the Italian Society of Environmental Geology, told Reuters that the floods are due to climate change.

“It’s an irreversible phenomenon, a taste of what our future will be,” he said.

The AFP contributed to this report.


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