At least ten people have been killed and four others are missing after 16 inches of rain hit the central Italian region of Marche in just two hours, causing catastrophic floods.
Local authorities said they did not expect such a sudden ‘water bomb’, as around 16 inches of rain fell within two hours on Thursday night, inundating the streets of several towns in the Ancona and Pesaro-Urbino provinces.
‘It was like an earthquake,’ Ludovico Caverni, the mayor of the town of Serra Sant’Abbondio, told RAI state radio.
Dozens of locals scrambled onto rooftops or up trees to await rescue as the powerful floods knocked down doors and swept through buildings and garages.
In one town, the powerful rush of water pushed a car onto a second-flood balcony, while elsewhere parked vehicles were crumpled on top of each other in the streets.
Today, residents were seen clearing mud from the streets, while firefighters struggled to remove toppled tree trunks and branches as they searched for people who could have been buried by debris.
The overnight flooding left at least ten people dead, Premier Mario Draghi said, while four people are still missing as of Friday afternoon. Some 50 people were treated in hospital for injuries.
Among those missing are two children, with one little boy being swept out of his mother’s arms by rushing waters in the town Barbara.
A girl, aged about eight, and other mother are also missing in Barbara after they tried to escape the flood waters, the local mayor Riccardo Pasqualini told the Italian news agency ANSA.
More than 300 firefighters were deployed to the region, with footage showing them waiting through waist-high water in flooded streets, while others operated rubber dinghies to scoop up survivors along their path.
A man helps an elderly woman to walk in the mud after heavy rains and deadly floods hit the central Italian region of Marche, in Cantiano, Italy, on Friday
People help an elderly woman after heavy rains and deadly floods hit the central Italian region of Marche, in Cantiano, Italy, on Friday
A woman wearing wellies tries to scrape mud away from her door steep following the flooding in Cantiano, Italy, on Friday
Partially submerged cars are seen on a flooded street after heavy rains hit the east coast of Marche region, Italy, on Friday
In one town, the powerful rush of water pushed a car onto a second-flood balcony, while elsewhere parked vehicles were crumpled on top of each other in the streets
An overturned car is seen after heavy rains and deadly floods hit the central Italian region of Marche, in Cantiano, on Friday
A family takes a rest after their house was flooded after torrential rain in Pianello di Ostra, Ancona province, Italy, on Friday
People clean mud from a street in Senigallia, Marche region, Italy, on Friday following the torrential rain on Thursday night
This picture released by the Italian firefighters shows an aerial view of the Senigallia area, with farms submerged in water, after floods hit Marche region, central-east Italy, on Friday
Firefighters said that dozens of people who had been trapped in cars or had climbed up to rooftops or trees to escape the rising floodwaters had been rescued. Helicopters were also deployed to pluck people to safety in the more remote towns of the Apennine Mountains.
Police in the town of Sassoferrato, unable to reach a man trapped in a car, extended a long branch to him, which he grabbed before being pulled to safety.
Some of the worst flooding struck the seaside town of Senigallia, while small towns in the hills near the Renaissance tourist town of Urbino were also deluged when fast-moving rivers of water, mud and debris rushed through streets.
Footage released by fire brigades showed operators navigating the streets of Senigallia on rafters to rescue people and evacuate them, while others attempted to clear an underpass of debris.
In the town of Ostra, a father and his adult son were found dead in the flooded garage of their apartment building where they had gone to try to remove their car, and another man who tried to remove his motorcycle from a garage also perished, state TV said. Elsewhere, a man was found dead in his car.
‘As it (the flood) played out, it was far, far worse than forecast,’ said Civil Protection chief Fabrizio Curcio. A bad weather watch had been issued on Thursday, but not at the highest level.
Hundreds of people fled or were evacuated from their homes until the premises could be checked for safety and mountains of mud cleared away.
‘It was an extreme event, more than an exceptional one,’ climatologist Massimiliano Fazzini told state TV.
He said that based on his calculations the amount of rain that fell, concentrated over four hours and in particular in a 15-minute period, was the most in hundreds of years.
Stefano Aguzzi, head of civil protection at Marche’s regional government, said the downpour was far stronger than had been forecast.
‘We were given a normal alert for rain, but nobody had expected anything like this,’ he told reporters.
A summer of virtually no rain meant hillsides were unusually hard and dry, so the water ran faster down the slopes, increasing its impact, meteorologists said.
In a space of a few hours, the region was deluged with the amount of rainfall it usually receives in six months, state TV said.
People work to clear the way after heavy rains and deadly floods hit the central Italian region of Marche, in Cantiano, on Friday
The inside of a building flooded and damaged in the aftermath of flash floods caused by an overnight rain bomb, in Pianello di Ostra, Ancona province, central Italy, on Friday
The overnight flooding left at least ten people dead, Premier Mario Draghi said, while four people are still missing as of Friday afternoon. Some 50 people were treated in hospital for injuries. Pictured: People work to clear way after heavy rains and deadly floods hit the central Italian region of Marche
In one town, the powerful rush of water pushed a car onto a second-flood balcony, while elsewhere parked vehicles were crumpled on top of each other in the streets. Pictured: Cars are stuck in mud and debris as after flash flooding in Senigallia, Marche region, Italy, on Friday
Italian firefighters work to clear debris near a car that crashed following the flash floods in Senigallia, Ancona province, Italy
An aerial view of flooded areas following an overnight rain bomb in Senigallia, Ancona province, Italy, on Friday
Houses were surrounded by water following the torrential rain in Senigallia, Ancona province, Italy, on Friday
Rescue services were still searching for survivors on Friday, authorities were quoted as saying in local media.
The head of the national civil protection agency Fabrizio Curcio was heading to Ancona to assess the damage, while party chiefs campaigning for Italy’s September 25 election expressed their solidarity.
Another video shows people waist-deep in water clutching umbrellas as the floods took hold of the Marche region.
There are cars around them submerged in muddy water as rain continues to pour down.
As they wade through it, the person holding the camera pans around to debris and nearby buildings dangerously close to the flooding.
Footage also shows a huge deluge of water carrying debris hitting a building in Sentino as people watch on and emergency vehicles are seen in the background.
Another video shows more fast-flowing downpours overtaking the streets of Senigallia as emergency services arrived on scene.
The flooding hitting the Marche region, is part of a wave of storms hitting the country.
Other regions experiencing storms are Tuscany, Umbria, Abruzzo, Fruili Venezia Guilia, Lombardy, Liguria and Molise.
Rescue workers rescue people on a dinghy boat on a flooded street after heavy rains hit the east coast of Marche region in Senigallia, Italy, on Friday
Elderly women are rescued from their homes and placed on a dinghy boat by authorities after heavy rains hit the Marche region on Friday
Rescue workers arrive on a dinghy boat on a flooded street after heavy rains hit the east coast of Marche region in Senigallia, Italy, in the early hours of Friday
It is the latest in a long series of extreme-weather events which have happened in Italy this summer.
The total number is 1,642 this summer which farmers association Coldiretti yesterday said is five times the amount of a decade ago.
Coldiretti released the figures on the basis of data from the European Severe Weather Database.
The ESWD database regards events such as tornadoes, heavy rain, large hail and lightning strikes.
Coldiretti said that the long hot summer in Italy which had drought was interrupted by violent rainfall.
It added that the amount of extreme weather events has caused more than six billion euros of damage to agriculture in 2022- 10 per cent the value of national production.
The farmer’s association added: ‘We are before the clear consequences of climate change, where exceptional atmospheric events are now the norm in Italy too, with a tendency towards tropicalisation manifest in more frequent violent events, seasonal shifts, short, intense precipitations, the fast passage from sunshine to bad weather, with significant changes in temperature that compromises crops, with the loss of production and damage to structure and infrastructure in the countryside’.
Meanwhile, the leader of Italy’s centre-left Democratic Party (PD) wrote on Twitter that it would stop its campaign in the region ahead of the September 25 national election.