Floodwaters caused by heavy rainfall raced through multiple towns in a hilly region of central Italy on Friday morning, leaving at least 10 people dead and at least four more missing, according to authorities. Dozens of survivors climbed rooftops and trees to await rescue.
“It wasn’t a water bomb, it was a tsunami,” Riccardo Pasqualini, the mayor of Barbara in the Marche region of Italy, near the Adriatic Sea, said of the torrential deluge that wrecked his city on Thursday evening.
This image, published by Italian firemen on September 16, 2022, shows an aerial view of the Senigallia region following flooding in the Marche region of central-east Italy. Italian firefighters – Vigili del Fuoco via AP
According to him, the flooding left 1,300 Barbara residents without potable water and with intermittent telephone access. The mayor told the Italian news agency ANSA that a mother and her small daughter went missing while attempting to flee the floodwaters.
While firefighters reported at least seven confirmed deaths and three individuals missing, the local prefect’s office was cited by RAI state television as saying there were 10 confirmed dead. Two children, one a boy who was swept from his mother’s arms in Barbara, were among the four individuals still missing as of late Friday morning.
About fifty persons were hospitalized for injuries.
Many of the 300 firefighters engaged in rescue operations waded through water up to their waists in flooded streets, while others operated inflatable dinghies to collect survivors along their path.
The fire department stated that hundreds of individuals who had escaped rising floodwaters by clinging to rooftops or climbing trees had been rescued. The fire service uploaded aerial footage depicting the wreckage.
Maltempo #Marche, la ricognizione aerea dell’elicottero dei #vigilidelfuoco del reparto volo di Pescara sulle aree alluvionate di #Senigallia (AN) #16settembre pic.twitter.com/vOzmav8unM
— Vigili del Fuoco (@vigilidelfuoco) September 16, 2022
Officers from the municipality of Sassoferrato described the rescue of a man trapped in a vehicle. Incapable of reaching him, they extended a long branch, which he grasped, and then officers drew him to safety.
Seven people were also rescued by helicopters in the more isolated communities of the Apennine Mountains, which form the spine of central Italy.
The film from Reuters revealed that the flash floods left a trail of damaged and trapped vehicles.
Luciana Agostinelli, a local resident, told Reuters, “My fruit business has been flipped upside down.”
Floodwaters flooded garages and basements and smashed doors with their weight and force.
Massimiliano Fazzini, a climatologist, told Italian state television, “It was a really rare occurrence.” According to his calculations, the amount of rain that poured over four hours, including a particularly heavy 15-minute spell, was the most in hundreds of years.
State television reported that the region received in a few hours the amount of precipitation it normally receives in six months.
In and around the town of Senigallia, where a river spilled its banks, the worst flooding occurred. When swift-moving rivers of water, mud, and debris swept through streets, hamlets in the hills near the Renaissance tourist town of Urbino were also flooded.
In advance of elections, storms ignite discussion about climate change.
The tragedy occurred just days before the general election on September 25, and condolences flowed in from across the political spectrum for those affected.
Giorgia Meloni, the frontrunner whose far-right Brothers of Italy party is vying for the position of prime minister, expressed “complete solidarity” with those impacted.
The president of the Marche region that encompasses Ancona is a member of her party.
The floods in Italy followed a drought, and many have made a connection to climate change – a topic that has received less attention during the election campaign.
“How can you believe that combating climate change is not a top priority?” stated Enrico Letta, leader of the center-left Democratic Party and Meloni’s chief opponent.
He stated that he was “stunned and flabbergasted” by the news from Marche and that he was suspending his campaign efforts in the region.
President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Francesco Rocca stated that aid teams were in route.
“Very concerned about the increase in extreme weather events,” he tweeted.
This summer’s drought, the worst in seven decades, depleted Italy’s greatest water reserve, the Po River.
In recent weeks, the sweltering heat has been followed by storms, with the inundating water leaving the terrain as hard as concrete.
In July, eleven people were murdered when a piece of Italy’s largest Alpine glacier collapsed. Officials attributed the tragedy to climate change.
Former Italian prime minister and current EU economy commissioner Paolo Gentiloni shed tears for the victims of the Marche floods.
He tweeted, “Italy and Europe must tackle climate change seriously.”
Paola Pino d’Astore, an expert from the Italian Society of Environmental Geology, told Reuters that climate change was the cause of the floods.
She stated, “It is an irrevocable phenomenon, a preview of our future.”
AFP contributed to the creation of this report.