At least nine people were killed and four missing after dramatic storms caused severe flooding in the Marche region of central Italy, forcing politicians to finally raise the topic of the climate crisis a week before a general election.
Dozens of others have reportedly saved themselves by climbing to rooftops and trees, in scenes described as close to the “end of the world”. Fifty people are treated in the hospital.
Heavy rain began to fall on the area on Thursday afternoon, with the streets turning into rivers and 420 mm of rain falling in the hardest-hit city of Cantiano, within a few hours, half the amount that fell on the city for the whole of 2021, Corriere della Sera reported.
Geologist Mario Tozzi told La Presse that six months of rain fell across the region within three hours.
The regional capital, Ancona, and the surrounding areas were also severely affected.
“It’s a tragedy,” said Manuela Bora, an alderman in the centre-left Democratic Party. “But there was no warning, which left us speechless – we weren’t prepared for such heavy rain. It started yesterday and by about 9pm I was getting videos where you can see the catastrophe caused by the storms. It’s a bit more under control now in the city of Ancona but it’s very dangerous in some cities, like the end of the world.”
Carlo Manfredi, the mayor of Castelleone di Suasa, told Rai News Friday morning that rescuers were still searching for an eight-year-old boy.
“Last night we found his mother alive,” he said. “She was in her car when she saw the water flowing and went out with the baby in her other arms. But then they were dragged away.”
A 17-year-old girl and her mother are believed to have been swept away by flood waters near the town of Senigallia while trying to flee the area by car.
Francesco Acquaroli, Governor of Marche, which is led by the Italian far-right Brothers, the party that is moving closer to national power after the September 25 elections, said it had received calls for solidarity from President Sergio Mattarella and the Prime Minister, Mario Draghi. “The pain is deep for what happened,” he said, “but the Marche community is strong and will know how to react.”
Giorgia Meloni, the leader of the Italian Brotherhood who could become Italy’s prime minister, offered “complete solidarity” with those affected.
The climate crisis was largely absent from discussion in the run-up to the election, though scholars launched a petition in August signed by more than 120,000 people urging politicians to make the issue a priority.
Enrico Letta, the leader of the center-left Democratic Party, announced on Friday that he was suspending his campaign due to the tragedy, adding that he was “dazed and unable to speak”.
“How do you think combating climate change is not the first priority?” He said.
Francesco Rocca, president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, wrote on Twitter that he was “deeply concerned about the increase in extreme weather events”.
Italy’s longest river, the Po River, has suffered this year Worst drought in seven decades. In early July, 11 people were killed when a huge block of ice fell from a glacier on the north side of Mount Marmolada in the Dolomites. break upcausing a fatal avalanche.