Nine dead after floods hit the Italian region of Marche

ROME – Unusual rain for several hours caused flooding in a region of central Italy early Friday morning, leaving at least nine people dead and many more missing, authorities said.

As the rain stopped, rescue teams scrambled through the mud and around fallen trees to search for survivors. Some people have taken refuge on rooftops or cling to branches in the floods. Italian media reported several vitriolic accounts, including a mother and daughter believed to have been swept away as they got out of their car.

“All citizens are asked not to leave their homes and go to the upper floors,” one hard-hit city wrote in a large print post on Facebook as the water level rose.

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While Italy has experienced more deadly floods for decades, this event was another example of severe weather, following a record drought that wiped out lakes and rivers, and destroyed crops. Fabrizio Corcio, head of Italy’s Civil Protection Department, said the area that was flooded within hours experienced “about a third of the precipitation it would normally receive in a year”.

“There were moments of horror with really extraordinary levels of water,” Corcio said.

A spokesman for the Department of Civil Protection said the area experienced 400 millimeters of rain, or about 15.75 inches.

While it’s difficult to link any single event to climate change, experts say moments of extreme weather are becoming more common — including in Italy, which has seen everything from melting Alpine glaciers to summer wildfires to rising seas chopping in Coastal cities.

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Friday’s floods extended across the Marche region, from the inland hills to the Adriatic coast. Some mayors of severely affected towns indicated that there was no indication that such an extreme event might occur.

“[There was] Maurizio Grassi, the mayor of Sassoverato, told Italian radio that only a yellow alert from the Civil Protection to wind and rain was given. “Nothing could have predicted such a catastrophe.”

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In a press release, government authorities said that of the nine dead, two have not yet been identified and could be among the four officially missing.

Pictures taken on Friday showed people starting to clean up, walking in the mud, grabbing shovels and drying their belongings.

The Marche region’s president, Francesco Acquaroli, wrote on his verified Facebook page that he had spoken with Italian President Sergio Mattarella as well as the country’s Prime Minister, Mario Draghi, who provided support for “every necessary need”.

“The pain is deep for what happened,” Acquaroli wrote.

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