'Shocking disaster': Death toll from Italy floods rises to 13

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The Local/AFP ([email protected])
'Shocking disaster': Death toll from Italy floods rises to 13
Residents clearing mud from a street in the town of Cesena, Emilia Romagna. (Photo by Alessandro SERRANO / AFP)

Two more deaths were confirmed on Thursday as rescuers continued the search for people still trapped by floodwaters in the northeastern Emilia Romagna region.


Two more people have been confirmed dead following flooding in northeastern Italy, bringing the official death toll to 11, while reports in Italian media said the death toll had climbed to 13.

READ ALSO: Why has flooding in northern Italy been so devastating?

Rescuers continued to scour flooded areas for anyone trapped on Thursday, after volunteers had worked through the night to save families, elderly and disabled people from their homes amid the worst flooding to hit the country in decades.

Some residents of the flood-hit region of Emilia Romagna and parts of neighbouring Marche were beginning the clean-up or attempting to reclaim belongings from sodden houses on Thursday.

Authorities said electricity had been partly restored, but some 27,000 people were still in the dark.

Nearly two dozen rivers and streams flooded across the southeast of the low-lying region following heavy rain earlier this week, submerging entire neighbourhoods and farmland, and damaging 400 roads.

Rescuers evacuate residents in the town of Lugo on May 18th, after heavy rains caused flooding across Italy's Emilia Romagna region. (Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP)

Agricultural lobby Coldiretti said Thursday that more than 5,000 farms were under water, with drowned animals and tens of thousands of hectares of vineyards, fruit trees, vegetables and grain flooded.

As the water receded, residents were left cleaning homes and streets thick with mud and filled with debris.

"I've lived here since 1979, I've seen floods go by, but I've never seen anything like that," Edoardo Amadori, a resident of the city of Cesena, told AFP on Wednesday.


Some of those evacuated were being allowed to return home, though authorities in Ravenna issued an immediate evacuation order early on Thursday morning for three more villages threatened by floods.

The mayor of Ravenna, Michele De Pascale, announced that residents of about a half dozen towns could return, but warned them "to exercise the utmost caution".

READ ALSO: How you can help people affected by flooding in northern Italy

Cracks in river embankments still posed a risk to other areas, which were being closely monitored, he said.

The dead included a couple believed to have been hit by floodwater as they went to check on their aromatic herb farm.

The body of the woman, in her 60s, was swept 20 kilometres (12.5 miles) away by rushing waters to the beach in Cesenatico, according to SkyTG24.


There was little significant rainfall on Thursday and only light rain expected Friday, though authorities said the high level alert for rivers remained.

Two people died in the same region earlier this month after two days of almost continuous rain.

Flooding in the town of Cesena, Emilia Romagna

Flooding in the town of Cesena after heavy rains hit Italy’s northern Emilia Romagna region on Wednesday. (Photo by Alessandro SERRANO / AFP)

"We had an estimated two billion (euros) of damages two weeks ago... the ground no longer absorbs anything," Stefano Bonaccini, president of the Emilia Romagna region, told La7 television channel late Wednesday.

"When we have six months of rain in 36 hours, falling where there had already been record rain two weeks ago, there is no territory that can hold out."

On Thursday Bonaccini compared the floods to the earthquake that hit the region on May 20, 2012, almost 11 years ago to the day.


Fixing the damage would be "a gigantic undertaking", he said, as the region launched a fundraising effort.

Bonaccini said Ferrari, the luxury carmaker whose Maranello base is not far from the flooded areas, had pledged one million euros.

Car underwater in Emilia Romagna

Entire neighbourhoods in Cesena, Emilia Romagna were left submerged by flooding on Wednesday. Photo by Alessandro SERRANO / AFP

The flooding caused the cancellation of Sunday's Formula One Emilia Romagna Grand Prix in Imola.

Pope Francis offered his prayers for those affected and thanked everyone on the ground helping those hit by the "shocking disaster".

Italy's armed forces and the coastguard joined the rescue effort, deploying helicopters to lift desperate residents from their homes and inflatable boats to reach houses surrounded on all sides by water.

IN VIDEOS: How floods devastated Italy's Emilia-Romagna region

The Italian government said on Thursday it would declare a state of emergency in the area, meaning more state funding would be allocated for the clean-up.

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.

The flooding caused the cancellation of Sunday's Formula One Emilia Romagna Grand Prix scheduled in Imola, with organisers saying they could not guarantee the safety of fans, teams and staff.


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