At least four people have died and thousands have been evacuated from their homes across northern Italy today, as devastating floods brought on by torrential rain ravaged dozens of towns.
Desperate families – including young children and the elderly – were forced to climb onto the roofs of their homes as they anxiously waited for rescuers to reach them by helicopter.
In the town of Cesena, in the hardest-hit northern region of Emilia-Romagna, local residents were forced to swim through flooded streets, past sunken cars and floating furniture, to reach higher ground.
Video shows a desperate mother clinging to her young daughter as she frantically waves for help as water outside her home continues to rise up to her chest. Two men were seen running for a swim to reach the pair, with one placing the young girl above his head so she could not be swept away in the fast-moving water.
The girl was surrendered into the arms of other rescuers standing on a bank, while other neighbors helped her mother to safety after the River Savio overflowed its banks.
But for some, the devastating floods have been deadly: Four people have so far died in the Emilia-Romagna region as the floods tore through their homes and turned streets into rivers.
Video shows a desperate mother clinging to her young daughter as she frantically waves for help as water outside her home continues to rise up to her chest
Two men were seen running to swim to reach the couple, with one placing the young girl above his head (centre) so she could not be swept away in the fast-moving water.
In the town of Cesena, in the hardest-hit northern region of Emilia-Romagna, local residents were forced to swim through flooded streets, past sunken cars and floating furniture, to reach higher ground (pictured)
A 70-year-old man died in his flooded home in the countryside outside Cesena while his wife was rescued.
Another man was found dead at his home in Forli after the Montone River burst its banks. The city’s mayor said the floods are the “worst situation they’ve ever experienced.”
Four people are missing in the region as rescuers desperately search for those trapped in their homes after rivers swollen by days-long downpours wreaked havoc on towns across the north.
Firefighters in the northern province of Pesaro-Urbino have been able to save a family with a four-month-old baby and a disabled man.
More families were picked off their roofs and brought to safety by firefighters in the flooded north, including a couple and their two young daughters.
Cesena’s nearly 100,000 residents were told to resist the temptation to look at the raging waters and not stay at ground level if they lived near the river.
“Be careful, don’t be curious, so that disaster doesn’t turn into tragedy,” Cesena mayor Enzo Lattuca told Rai state television.
In all, some 900 people in flooded areas in northern Italy were evacuated late Tuesday night, some taking shelter in gyms or schools.
Two men ran to swim to reach the mother and her young daughter in Cesana
The girl was surrendered into the arms of other rescuers standing on a bank, while other neighbors helped her mother to safety after the River Savio burst its banks
Rescue workers bring people to safety during rescue operations in Italy’s Forli after floods hit Italy’s northern Emilia-Romagna region on Wednesday
In the tourist town of Ravenna in northeastern Italy, authorities have urged residents to move to the top floors of buildings to weather the storm. There, one person died after their car was submerged in the water.
In Riccione, a seaside resort on the Adriatic Sea, the mayor warned people to stay at home, while some took to the flooded streets in dinghies.
In the area between Ancona, an important Adriatic port, and Pesaro-Urbino, two towns popular with tourists, firefighters carried out 80 interventions for local floods, fallen trees and mudslides and rescued motorists in trouble, the corps said in a tweet .
Meteorologists say Italy can expect heavy rain for several more days to hit the north, which has been suffering from rainfall shortages for weeks.
Train traffic on the Bologna-Ancona and Ravenna-Faenza routes has been halted, according to Italian media.
Rescue workers wade through floodwaters during rescue operations in Italy’s Forli after floods hit Italy’s northern Emilia-Romagna region in the early hours of Wednesday morning
Firefighters and rescuers are seen alongside boats during rescue operations in Faenza, Italy after floods hit Italy’s northern Emilia-Romagna region on Wednesday
Elsewhere in the north, authorities in Venice are preparing to activate a mobile barrier in the lagoon in hopes of saving the city from May’s rare high-water floods.
The barrier system, known by the acronym Moses and recalling the biblical account of the parting of the Red Sea, will be lifted tonight for the first time in May.
It has been almost 20 years since construction began on the project, which is still not officially completed.
Earlier this month, a day and a half of non-stop rain caused flooding in the densely populated Emilia-Romagna region, killing at least two people as drought-dried riverbeds overflowed.
The rainfall came as Italy braced for a second year of drought, which has depleted its largest river, the Po. The river supports agriculture in the vast valley of the Po River before emptying into the Adriatic Sea east of Bologna.
While northeastern Italy was hardest hit by the downpours, flooding also wreaked havoc in the south.
On the island of Sicily, rescuers responded to flooding, fallen trees and other problems in the countryside between Palermo and Trapani. Tuesday morning, the weather there improved, the fire department said.