Natural Disasters

Heavy rains, flooding in north Italy claim 8 lives; thousands evacuated

An average of 200 mm of rainfall happened in the last 36 hours

By Nandita Banerji
Published: Wednesday 17 May 2023
Flood in Emilia Romagna in northern Italy. Photo:

Heavy rain have wreaked havoc in the northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna, leading to the death of eight people. Twenty-one rivers swelled over their banks, forcing the evacuation of thousands, reported British daily The Guardian. 

The rains first began on May 2, 2023. Italy’s civil protection agency on May 17 said there could be worse to come. “The rainfall is not over. It will continue for several hours,” the agency’s chief, Titti Postiglione, told Italian news channel SkyTG24. “We are facing a very, very complicated situation.”

The Emilia Romagna region was placed under a red threat-level warning from the Italian authorities because of persistent heavy rain that threatens to cause flooding and landslides.

We are facing unpredictable events; some areas have seen over 300 millimetres of rainfall in the last 24 hours, SkyTG24 reported the governor of Emilia-Romagna, Stefano Bonaccini, saying during a press conference. 

The heavy rains and floods also forced Formula One to cancel this weekend’s Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix, scheduled for May 20. “The decision has been taken because it is not possible to safely hold the event for our fans, the teams and our personnel,” the Formula One organisers said in a statement.

Days of rainstorms stretched across a broad swath of northern Italy and the Balkans, where heavy floods, landslides and evacuations were also reported in Croatia, Bosnia and Slovenia, reported news outlet Mint.

Italy witnessed a drought last year that caused €6 billion (Rs 61,653 crore) in losses last year, reported news agency Reuters

After little rain and meagre Alpine snowfalls over winter, Italy was bracing for a second consecutive year of severe drought, said an April 25, 2023 report. Reservoirs and lakes are at extremely low levels, threatening agricultural production.

At present, 24 municipalities in Italy are flooded and 50,000 are without electricity, reported SkyTG24’s live updates. 

Italian Civil Protection Minister Nello Musemeci called for a new nationwide hydraulic engineering plan to adapt to the impact of increasing incidents of floods and landslides, the Mint report further said.

At a briefing, he noted that an average of 200 mm of rainfall happened in 36 hours in the region, with some areas registering 500 mm in that period.

“If you consider that this region averages 1,000 mm of rain in a year, you realise the impact that these rains have had in these hours,” Musemeci said.

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