As reported by local authorities, there have been at least eight fatalities as a result of severe flooding and mudslides in the Emilia Romagna area of northern Italy, forcing more than 5,000 residents to leave.
According to Reuters, the vice president of Emilia Romagna, Irene Priolo, told reporters that the remains had been found in several different areas and added that although the rain was letting up, river levels were still rising.
The area, which has been experiencing a protracted drought, is under a red alert, which is the highest level of warning or emergency for weather-related deaths. The location has been evacuated and the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, scheduled for this weekend, has been cancelled.
Fourteen rivers burst their banks in the region, forcing people in cities such as Cesena to climb onto the roof of their buildings to escape incoming water, Reuters reported. Firefighters rescued them with helicopters or rubber dinghies.
A total of 600 firefighters have been deployed from across Italy to assist with evacuations in the region after Italy’s longest river, the Po, broke its banks,” the Italian Department for Civil Protection said in a tweet.
Residents in numerous areas across the region, including in the city of Bologna, were asked not to leave their homes.
The city of Ravenna has also been heavily affected. “It’s probably been the worst night in the history of Romagna,” Ravenna Mayor Michele de Pascale told RAI public radio according to Reuters, saying that 5,000 people had been evacuated from his city alone overnight.
“Ravenna is unrecognizable for the damage it has suffered,” he added.
Tweeting on Tuesday evening, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni extended her “total sympathy” to those affected by the flooding, adding that the government stands “ready to intervene with the necessary aid.”
This pledge was echoed by Deputy Prime Minister Antonio Tajani in a tweet Wednesday morning, saying that the “government will do everything necessary to help” everyone from “evacuees to those who have lost crops” due to the flooding.
In the neighboring eastern region of Le Marche, also severely hit by flooding, 200 firefighters have been mobilized for rescue efforts in the past 24 hours, according to the Vigili del Fuoco fire service.
The torrential rains come after months of drought that dried out the land – which meteorologists say has reduced its capacity to absorb water, worsening the floods, according to Reuters.
Water levels on northern Italy’s Lake Garda fell to record lows in February, with Venice experiencing unusually low tides.
From lengthy droughts to severe flooding, the intensity of water-related disasters around the world has increased over the last two decades as global temperatures climbed to record levels, according to recent research.
The study from NASA scientists published in March in the journal Nature Water found that increasingly frequent, widespread and intense droughts and floods were linked more strongly to higher global temperatures than to naturally changing weather patterns, like El Niño and La Niña. This suggests these intense events will increase as the climate crisis accelerates, the study says.
Formula 1 has announced the cancellation of this weekend’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix because of heavy flooding in the region, citing safety concerns.
In a statement shared on Twitter, it said, “It would not be right to put further pressure on the local authorities and emergency services at this difficult time.”
On Tuesday, Formula 1 staff were asked to leave the site of the race as a precautionary measure, an F1 source told CNN.
The Emilia Romagna Grand Prix is the first event of the Formula 1 season in Europe and was scheduled to take place this weekend.