Civil Defense Minister Nello Musumechi said some areas received half of their average annual rainfall in 36 hours, causing rivers to burst their banks and cascading water through towns and farmland.
Eight bodies have been recovered from various locations, Emilia-Romagna Vice President Irene Priolo told reporters, adding that the rain was easing but river levels were still rising.
Without Formula 1, firefighters are needed elsewhere
This weekend’s Formula 1 race at Imola has been canceled after the government directed emergency services to deal with flood damage and there was no one to cover the circuit’s needs
“The decision was made as it is not possible for the event to take place safely for our fans, teams, and our staff,” the organizers said in a statement.
Muddy streams of water flowed through the streets of Faenza, Cesena, and Forli, south of Imola, covering the roofs of parked cars, submerging some shops, and forcing locals to flee to the upper floors of their homes.
“Don’t go near the rivers. Those who live in areas near water bodies should move to higher floors,” the president of the affected region, Stefano Bonacini, said on Facebook.
Don’t leave home
Road and rail links were blocked in many places and the mayors of many cities, including Bologna, urged residents not to leave their homes.
The northern city of Ravenna, famous for its early Christian heritage sites, was also badly hit.
“It was probably the worst night in the history of Romagna. Ravenna is unrecognizable because of the damage,” Ravenna mayor Michele de Pascale told RAI public radio, saying 5,000 people had been evacuated from his city alone overnight.
For the second time this month, Emilia-Romagna has been hit by bad weather, with at least two people killed during storms in early May.
Minister Musumeji said between 200mm and 500mm of rain fell in some parts of the region in a day and a half against an average annual rainfall of 1000mm.
Venice, further north, is unaffected.
The torrential rains followed months of drought that reduced the ground’s ability to absorb water, making the effects of the floods worse, meteorologists said.