FAENZA: The toll from floods that have devastated Italy's Emilia Romagna region rose to 14 on Friday, amid calls for the government to revive an abandoned project to mitigate the impact of natural disasters.
Authorities in Ravenna ordered the immediate evacuation of two small towns and issued an “extremely urgent” call for residents to reduce their movements to a minimum in the region, which was still subject to a red weather alert.
The latest victim to be found was a man recovered from a flooded house in Faenza, a picturesque city usually surrounded by green pastures and vineyards which was left largely underwater after the fierce downpour earlier this week.
Nearly half of the 15,000 people evacuated from their homes across the region spent the night in local refuge centres set up in gyms or hotels. Others received hot meals from mobile kitchens deployed in several cities.
Locals in Faenza shovelled mud out of their homes, piling sodden mattresses, clothes and furniture together in mountains of waste.
“I lost everything except for these pyjamas,“ said Fred Osazuwa, 58, as he surveyed the mess left of his home.
“But me and my family, we are alive. I thank God.”
The mayor of nearby Casola Valsenio, Giorgio Sagrini, told SkyTG24: “Landslides have cut us off from the rest of the world.”
“There are families stuck in their houses,“ he said.
The town of Lugo was one of several reporting that food and water supplies were “running low”.
“We know you are tired, scared and worried,“ the council said to its residents in a Facebook post.
“The emergency is not over... As much as possible, stay calm and be patient,“ it said.
- 'Disastrous situation' -
In Ravenna, rain was still falling and mayor Massimo Isola described a “disastrous situation” in hamlets up in the hills surrounding the city.
As rescue workers searched for people still cut off by the waters, details emerged of the final moments of some of those who died.
One, 75-year-old Giovanni Pavani, refused to leave his house on Tuesday, telling his neighbour Marina Giocometti he had put sandbags along the windows and would be fine, according to the Corriere della Sera daily.
He was on the phone to her when waters began rushing in. “I’m cold, so cold. The furniture’s floating around the house”, Giocometti said he told her.
She advised him to stand on the table and said she would call the emergency services but the line suddenly cut out, she said.
The rescue of a three-year-old boy from his mother's arms, as she stood outside her house in water up to her chest, calling for help, went viral on Wednesday.
The mother, Fabiana, 36, told Corriere she would “never forget” the selflessness of the man -- a Serbian cook called Dorde -- who swam to her and took the boy, hoisting him onto his shoulder, before swimming him to safety.
“I told my son it was a game and he had to climb as high as possible up whoever picked him up,“ she said.
The downpour -- which saw half a year's rain fall in just 36 hours -- caused billions of euros (dollars) worth of damage.
The flooding caused the cancellation of Sunday's Formula One Emilia Romagna Grand Prix in Imola.
On Friday, Formula One said it was donating one million euros ($1.1 million) to relief operations, matching a pledge made by Ferrari the previous day.
The disaster has prompted questions nationally as to why more is not being done to mitigate the effects of climate change.
According to the Legambiente environmental association, 6.8 million Italians live in flood risk areas.
In 2014, then prime minister Matteo Renzi set up a task force called Italia Sicura (Safe Italy), entrusted with flood and landslide prevention.
But it was scrapped in 2018 by Giuseppe Conte -- head of a coalition government uniting the populist Five Star Movement and right-wing League -- and replaced with a project that failed to get off the ground. -AFP