(CNN) At least eight people have been killed in floods and torrential mudslides in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy, with more than 5,000 people evacuated, according to local authorities.
Bodies have been recovered from various locations, Irene Priollo, deputy head of the Emilia-Romagna region, told reporters, adding that rainfall is decreasing but river levels are still high.
The region, which has been suffering from a prolonged drought, is on red alert — the highest warning or emergency level for life-threatening weather phenomena. Formula 1 announced the cancellation of the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix, scheduled for this weekend, and the vacating of the venue.
Reuters reported that 14 rivers had burst their banks in the region, forcing people in cities such as Cesena to climb to their roofs to escape the incoming waters. Firefighters rescued them with helicopters or inflatable boats.
Italy’s Civil Protection Ministry said in a tweet that a total of 600 firefighters had been deployed from across Italy to assist with evacuations in the region after the Po River, Italy’s longest, broke its banks.
Residents in many areas across the region, including the city of Bologna, have been asked not to leave their homes.
“The worst night in history”
The city of Ravenna was also badly affected. “It was probably the worst night in the history (region) of Romania,” Michele de Pascal, the mayor of Ravenna, told public radio RAI, according to Reuters, adding that 5,000 people were evacuated from his city alone overnight.
He added that the area “Ravenna is unrecognizable because of the damage that has been done to it.”
In a tweet on Tuesday evening, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni expressed her “total sympathy” for those affected by the floods, adding that the government was “ready to intervene with the necessary assistance”.
Deputy Prime Minister Antonio Tajani echoed the pledge in a tweet on Wednesday morning, saying that “the government will do whatever is necessary to help” all “evacuees and those who have lost their crops” due to the floods.
In the neighboring eastern region of Le Marche, which was badly affected by the floods, 200 firefighters have been mobilized for the rescue effort in the past 24 hours, according to the fire service of Vigli del Fuco.
Water disasters are linked to the climate crisis
The heavy rains come after months of drought that has dried out the land – which meteorologists say has reduced its ability to absorb water, exacerbating flooding, according to Reuters.
Water levels in Lake Garda in northern Italy fell to record low levels in February as Venice experienced unusually low tides.
The most intense dry event the study recorded was in Brazil and Venezuela from 2015 to 2016, which experts say was worse than the current drought in the southwestern United States.
The study finds that water disasters on both ends of the spectrum — dry and wet — are getting more severe as the planet warms
From prolonged droughts to severe floods, the intensity of water-related disasters has increased worldwide over the past two decades as global temperatures have risen to record levels, according to recent research.
The study by NASA scientists in March in the journal Nature Water found that frequent, widespread and intense droughts and floods were more strongly associated with higher global temperatures than they were with naturally changing weather patterns, such as El Niño and La Niña. The study says this indicates that these extreme events will increase as the climate crisis accelerates.
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