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Flooding Causes Havoc in Italy and Balkans

Several fatalities recorded after heavy rain falls on ground dried by drought

Extremely heavy rain has caused havoc across parts of southern and central Europe, with thousands of people forced to abandon their homes and eight deaths recorded so far.

In northern Croatia and northwestern Bosnia, flooding by the River Una led to a state of emergency being declared, and Amin Halitovic, mayor of the town of Bosanska Krupa, called the scenes of devastation “an apocalypse”.

The Italian region of Emilia-Romagna was also extremely hardhit. This weekend’s Formula 1 grand prix which was due to take place in the region has been cancelled, and Italy’s Civil Protection Minister Nello Musumeci said some regions had recorded as much as half a year’s rainfall in just 36 hours.

The flooding occurred around the same time that the World Meteorological Organization issued fresh warnings about rising global temperatures, and follows sustained periods of drought-like conditions across much of southern Europe, caused by weather conditions more normally seen in Africa. These have resulted in hard-baked earth that then struggles to absorb heavy rainfall.

“Nothing will ever be the same again … and what has happened in these hours is evidence of that,” Musumeci explained. “When soil remains dry for a long time, instead of increasing its absorption capacity, it ends up cementing and allowing rainfall to continue flowing over the surface and causing absolutely unimaginable damage.”

Up to 50,000 people had lost electricity as a result of the flooding, he added, and more than 100,000 had lost mobile phone or landline use.

Michele de Pascale, mayor of the city of Ravenna, told public broadcaster RAI “it’s probably been the worst night in the history of Romagna… Ravenna is unrecognizable for the damage it has suffered,” while the Agence France-Presse news agency quoted the mayor of the city of Forli as saying it was “on its knees, devastated and in pain”.

The floods occurred in the same week that there has been a major debate going on in Italy about the best way for the country to use financial support from the European Union to improve its infrastructure, with reports of sharp divisions between central and regional government about how it should be spent.

In September, the Euronews website quoted a report by the International Energy Agency noting that Italy’s average annual temperature had been increasing faster than the global average over the past two decades.

“If climate action is delayed or not sufficiently incisive, we’ll see an increase in the risk of droughts, risks to human life and life on land and sea, a less hospitable climate, greater difficulty in growing crops — which are particularly important for Italy — as well as a risk of damage to infrastructure, and flash floods,” said Davide Panzeri, a senior policy adviser and European leader of Italy’s non-profit climate think tank ECCO.

Landslides were also reported across eastern Slovenia, and in Croatia the military was deployed to bring aid to people who had been cut off by the flood waters.

Source: China Daily