Three dead and thousands evacuated as floods hit northern Italy

A flooded street in Cesena on May 17 after heavy rainfall caused major floodings in central Italy (AFP via Getty Images)
A flooded street in Cesena on May 17 after heavy rainfall caused major floodings in central Italy (AFP via Getty Images)

At least three people have died and thousands have been evacuated from their homes as devastating floods hit Italy’s northern Emilia-Romagna region.

Three people remained missing on Wednesday, after torrential downpours saw rivers burst their banks and left buildings underwater, while authorities warned the worst may be yet to come.

“The rainfall is not over, it will continue for several hours,” the deputy head of the Civil Protection Agency, Titti Postiglione, told the SkyTG24 news channel.

“We are facing a very, very complicated situation.”

Emilia-Romagna officials said three bodies had been found in the towns of Forli, Cesena and Cesenatico.

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Fourteen rivers broke their banks in the region, forcing people in cities such as Cesena to climb onto the roof of their buildings, where they were rescued by firefighters in helicopters and rubber dinghies.

“Do not go near the rivers,” regional chief Stefano Bonaccini said on Facebook. “Those who live in areas close to watercourses should move to higher floors.”

Many schools have been closed, while a number of roads are blocked and trains on some railway lines have been stopped.

Residents in towns and cities including Bologna have been urged not to leave their homes.

The northern city of Ravenna, close to the Adriatic coast, was also badly affected.

“It’s probably been the worst night in the history of Romagna,” Ravenna Mayor Michele de Pascale told RAI public radio, saying that 5,000 people had been evacuated from his city alone overnight.

 (Vigili del Fuoco/AFP via Getty I)
(Vigili del Fuoco/AFP via Getty I)

“Ravenna is unrecognisable for the damage it has suffered.”

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni expressed her “total closeness to the affected population” and, writing on Twitter, said the government stood ready to provide help.

This weekend’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix has been called off because of the severe weather.

It is the second time this month that the region has been battered by bad weather, with at least two people dying during storms at the beginning of May.

The torrential rains followed months of drought which dried out the land, reducing its capacity to absorb water and worsening the impact of the floods, meteorologists said.