Nine dead as floods hit Italy’s Marche region

ROME — Hours of unusual rain triggered flooding in central Italy early Friday, killing at least nine people and leaving several others missing, according to authorities.

As the rain ceased, rescuers searched for survivors in the mud and around fallen trees. During the flood, some people took shelter on roofs or grabbed branches. Italian media have reported several scorching stories, including a mother and daughter who are believed to have been swept away as they got out of a car.

“All citizens are ordered not to leave their homes and go to higher floors,” one hard-hit town wrote in an all-caps announcement on Facebook as high water levels soared.

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While Italy has suffered deadlier floods in the past few decades, the event marks yet another example of extreme weather after record droughts have eroded lakes and rivers and destroyed crops. Fabrizio Curcio, head of Italy’s civil protection agency, said that within a few hours the flooded area received “about one-third of the rainfall that normally occurs in a year”.

“With very high water levels, there will be some scary moments,” Curcio said.

A spokesman for the Civil Defence said the area had already received 400mm (15.75 inches) of rain.

While it’s hard to link any single event to climate change, experts say moments of extreme weather are becoming more common — including in Italy, where melting Alpine glaciers, summer wildfires and rising sea levels are eroding coastal cities.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said during a visit to the affected areas that the flood risk had become a “climate change emergency” and that precautions, including infrastructure investment, were needed.

“It also means tackling climate change,” Draghi said.

Flooding flooded the Marche region on Friday, from the inland hills to the Adriatic coast. The mayors of some hard-hit towns pointed out that there is no indication that such an extreme event could happen.

“[There was] The mayor of Sassoferrato, Maurizio Greci, told Radio Italia that only the Civil Protection Department issued an amber alert in case of wind and rain. “Nothing could have predicted such a catastrophe.”

Italy’s Marche region experienced deadly flooding on September 9. 16. Rescuers search for missing persons. (Video: Reuters)

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Of the nine dead, two have yet to be identified and may be one of four officially missing, government authorities said in a news release.

Photos on Friday showed people starting to clean up, wading through mud, holding shovels and drying their belongings.

The head of the Marche region, Francesco Acquaroli, wrote on his verified Facebook page that he has spoken with Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Germany. Draghi spoke with the latter providing support for “all necessary needs”.

“The pain of what happened is deep,” Acquaroli wrote.

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