Three friends filmed in final embrace before being swept away by flash floods in Italy

The two women and man, all aged in their 20s were caught in floods in the northern Friuli region
The two women and man, all aged in their 20s were caught in floods in the northern Friuli region

Three young friends, including a couple, were filmed in a heartbreaking final embrace before they were swept away by flash floods in northern Italy.

Patrizia Cormos, 20, her friend Bianca Doros, 23, and her boyfriend Cristian Molnar, 25, had decided to take a stroll along the Natisone River near Udine in the northern Friuli region when the river surged to dangerous levels after days of torrential rain.

The two women and man, all aged in their 20s, were last seen alive on Friday standing thigh deep in the swirling river water on a tiny island they walked to in the middle of the river.

Video shared from the scene as rescue efforts were underway showed the trio hugging each other as they remained trapped in the rising torrent unable to reach the riverbank.

Patrizia Cormos, Cristian Molnar and Bianca Doros
Patrizia Cormos, Cristian Molnar and Bianca Doros

“We threw them a rope, but they were literally swallowed up by the flood waters in front of our eyes. We watched them disappear,” Giorgio Basile, the chief of the provincial firefighters in Udine, said.

On Sunday two bodies, believed to be Ms Cormos and Ms Doros, a Romanian who was reportedly visiting her family, were found about 1km from where they were last seen. As the search continues for Mr Molnar, who is also Romanian, prosecutors opened an investigation into the tragedy.

One of the women had made an emergency call to police at around 1.35pm on Friday and firefighters quickly arrived at the scene. One firefighter urged them to stick together from a nearby bridge as emergency workers attempted to throw them a rope but the three were carried away by the swiftly moving current.

Firefighters and other emergency workers have been using drones, boats and divers to sweep the river for any sign of the missing since Friday. A handbag of one of the women was recovered reportedly containing the mobile that made their emergency SOS call.

“The main element is not so much the rain, it is the power of the river, the very strong currents,” Mr Basile said. “There are gorges, there is a backwash of water and even for the experts it is a particularly treacherous task.”

‘I told her not to go’

Ms Cormos was a student at the Academy of Fine Arts in Udine and she had asked her mother if she could join her friends for a drive on Friday after finishing an exam.

The three friends drove to Premariacco Beach near Udine and walked down to the river. Ms Doros, who was studying economics in Bucharest, had arrived in Udine a few days earlier to visit her parents while her boyfriend, who was also Romanian, had travelled from Austria to see them.

The families of the victims had not made any public comment late Sunday but the mother of Ms Cormos was quoted in the Italian daily, Corriere della Sera, before her daughter’s body was found. (without citing her name)

“I had told her not to go, because she was tired,” her mother reportedly said in tears. “But she said ‘we are just going to hang out for a bit and take some photos. Come on mum, don’t be angry’.”

Michele De Sabata, mayor of the nearby town of Premariacco, expressed his sympathy on behalf of the community.

“They found themselves in an unpredictable situation. Those who live in Premariacco know the river and how conditions can change quickly. The three kids arrived when it was sunny. They could not have known what was about to happen. It only took minutes.”

Heavy floods have caused widespread chaos across northern Italy in areas including Milan, Varese and Cremona in the past two weeks. Violent storms struck the Friuli and Veneto regions in mid-May and there is further rain forecast in the north of Italy this week.