Torrential downpours in northern Italy triggered widespread flooding that has left at least eight people dead and thousands of people displaced, officials said Wednesday.
Some of the worst hit areas in the Emilia-Romagna region were drenched by half their average annual rainfall in under two days, with towns and roads submerged beneath dangerous floodwaters. Authorities had retrieved eight bodies as of Wednesday, the region’s vice president Irene Priolo said, according to Reuters. She added that overflowing river levels were still rising despite the rains easing off.
The Emilia Romagna Grand Prix was also called off on Wednesday, with Formula One issuing a statement saying that Sunday’s race at Imola would be dropped to avoid putting “further pressure on the local authorities and emergency services at this difficult time.”
“The Formula 1 community wants to send its thoughts to the people and communities affected by the recent events in the Emilia-Romagna region,” the statement added. “We also want to pay tribute to the work of the emergency services who are doing everything they can to help those in need.”
Relief efforts have already been complicated by flood water cutting off roads and rail lines, making certain areas impassable. Matteo Lepore, the Mayor of Bologna, advised residents in the city via his Telegram channel not to leave their homes except for “serious emergencies” and said all schools for all age groups would be closed Thursday.
Italy’s Civil Protection Minister Nello Musemeci said at a briefing Wednesday that two dozen towns had been flooded and that widespread evacuations were underway. He also called for a new national plan for dealing with floods and landslides as Italy increasingly deals with tropical weather, where lengthy droughts are followed by intense rain.
“Nothing will ever be the same again,” Musemeci said, according to the Associated Press, “And what has happened in these hours is evidence of that.” He said that soil which remains dry for a long time “ends up cementing and allowing rainfall to continue flowing over the surface and causing absolutely unimaginable damage.”
Musemeci said 5,000 people had been evacuated and about 50,000 had no power, while over 100,000 did not have the use of cell phones or landlines.
Massive flooding has also been reported across the Adriatic Sea in northern Croatia and northwestern Bosnia, where a state of emergency has been declared. “We have an apocalypse,” Armin Halitovic, mayor of the town of Bosanska Krupa in Bosnia, told the N1 TV channel. “We can no longer count the flooded buildings. It’s never been like this.”
Landslides were also reported in eastern Slovenia, while soldiers and emergency crews were dispatched in Croatia to take supplies to people stranded in their homes by flooding.