Emilia – Romania after the flood of the century. The big cleanup is underway


This May has been marked in Italy by catastrophic flooding the likes of which has not been seen there in 100 years. In Emilia-Romagna, 600 mm of rain fell in a matter of days, creating an extremely dangerous flood situation unknown in the history of the region. Fifteen people have died, more than 36,000 residents have been displaced, and losses are calculated at at least €7 billion. A major cleanup after the flood is underway – the region is preparing to welcome tourists.

Emilia-Romagna – catastrophic effects of flooding

Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region, like the rest of the country, has been plagued by floods for years. Due to global climate change, atmospheric phenomena are increasing in severity, becoming more extreme and catastrophic in their effects. Flooding in Italy is one of the main natural hazards, causing a number of damages and losses.

Within one month, the Emilia-Romagna region struggled with two flood waves on May 5 and 16. During the thirty-six-hour period of heavy rain since May 16, the amount of rainfall reached as much as 600 mm in some places. According to studies by the IRPI (Istituto di Ricerca per la Protezione Idrogeologica – Research Institute for Geohydrological Protection in Italy), this May was one of the rainiest since 1951.

The downpours caused more than 20 rivers to rise from their banks, flooding areas in the Emilia-Romagna region and producing many landslides and mudslides. “We have 280 active landslides affecting 60 municipalities, and 400 roads are damaged or cut off,” according to Stefano Bonaccini, president of the affected region. The floods also destroyed those located in the so-called “flood zone. valley fruit crops of apricots, peaches and kiwis, reports the daily La Stampa, adding that 10 million fruit trees will have to be removed.

Due to the magnitude of the phenomenon, it is reported that the May flood was the largest in Italy in 100 years. A state of calamity was declared in the Emilia-Romagna region, prompting the Italians to make a request to the EU for international assistance. Eight countries responded, including Poland, which offered a rescue module consisting of 44 rescuers, 19 vehicles and high-capacity pumps, according to PSP spokesman Brig. Gen. Karol Kierzkowski. The other countries that have offered support are Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, France, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia.

Flooding in Emilia-Romagna and failure to control river levels

Despite its high frequency and prevalence over the years, flooding in Italy is a phenomenon that seems to be ignored by both citizens and the government. Many people are wondering why the flood control mechanisms have not worked. Prevention in this area in Italy exists, but is not at a high level – it is usually weather warnings and bans for citizens issued by higher municipal or regional authorities. The situation is similar with the monitoring of water levels, maintenance of riverbeds or the condition of embankments.

“If the riverbed is flooding, it has nothing to do with climate change. It’s a problem of poor maintenance and preparation of the river banks in case of flooding.” – Paride Antolini, president of the Geological Society of Emilia-Romagna, says. Antolini also brings up the subject of the problems associated with downsizing in public offices, resulting in, among other things. Lack of adequate monitoring of rivers. He adds that the process of afforestation in mountainous areas has been inadequate, meaning that they do not protect lower-lying areas from surface runoff.

Italian environmentalists are now accusing the government of failing to prepare for situations such as the flooding in the Emilia-Romagna region. In 2014. “Safe Italy” (“Italia Sicura”) plan was introduced to prevent the occurrence of similar tragedies. It envisioned allocating €8 billion for projects that would improve flood safety, prevent landslides and the extreme effects of climate change. Some progress has been made in 4 years, but most of the money earmarked for this purpose has not been spent, and the initiative was completely rejected in 2018. government operating at the time. Today, many voices are in favor of resuming the “Safe Italy” plan.

Italy’s most endangered region

The first four months of this year in Italy were exceptionally dry – the soil’s ability to absorb precipitation was significantly reduced. With that said, it should be noted that according to ISPRA (Istituto Superiore per la Protezione e la Ricerca Ambientale – Italian Institute for Environmental Protection and Research), 7 million Italians live in areas recognized as for being at risk of flooding. Emilia-Romagna region is one of the most vulnerable to flooding due to its geographic location and heavily developed network of waterways and rivers. Flood risk is also increasing due to the amount of impervious areas.

The big cleanup is underway

Residents of the Emilia-Romagna region are cleaning up after a major flood. Mountains of waste, including bulky ones, are piling up on the streets of cities and towns. These include all kinds of furniture and equipment from flooded homes, schools, workshops or stores. This garbage rots and begins to decompose, making the odor in many places a major nuisance. It has been estimated that some 30,000 tons of waste must be hauled away from the city of Faenza alone. This is being done gradually. Volunteers and civil defense are helping with the cleanup. Residents hope that tourists will soon be able to buy beautiful ceramics from them again, as they did before the floods hit.

For more on flooding and how to protect yourself from it, see the article“Flash flood – how to protect yourself from the elements.”

Photo credit: Caritas Italiana

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