The Mediterranean island of Sardinia in Italy has been hit by intense flash floods, leaving at least 17 people dead, sweeping away bridges and cars and completely flooding roads as the “apocalyptic” storm hit the area. The southern portion of the popular tourist island saw villages evacuated on Monday evening, with thousands left homeless, after 450 millimeters of rain fell in a mere 24 hours.
Italian Prime Minister, Enrico Letta, declared a state of emergency in Sardinia in a cabinet meeting and told reporters that the Italian government has allocated 20 million euros ($27 million) in aid for the island. Aid will be used to help displaced people, save lives and to make repairs to roads. The mayor of Olbia, Gianni Giovanelli, said that the town had been destroyed and that water levels were at around three meters (10 feet) in some areas.
In Arzachena near Olbia, a Brazilian mother, father and two teenagers were among the at least 17 dead when their ground-floor apartment was swept through by a flash flood. Others killed in the broader area of the town included two young babies and a 35-year-old father with his 3-year-old son. A police officer was killed when a bridge collapsed on top of him.
It was thought that the death toll could rise once the Civil Protection agency manages to reach the more remote areas of the island.
According to Marco Vargiu, councilor of tourism for Olbia, around 70,000 people have been affected by the disaster in the area. He said that the worst conditions are in Olbia with many houses flooded with one or two meters of water and many families have lost their cars, furniture, everything. Vargiu further added that while his house is not damaged, just 15 meters away friends have lost their car, their furniture and all their belongings in the flood. He said that the town doesn’t remember having been hit by an apocalyptic type of disaster like this and that it just never happens in Sardinia, with at least 17 people dead. He said that at present they have electricity in the town, but the roads are completely swept away.
One unnamed man from Olbia told the local TG1 television station that it was “an explosion of water”, as the flash flood hit the town. He said that people were climbing into trees and on to the roofs of their houses to escape the dangerously rising waters.
According to the Civil Protection agency in Italy, around 2,500 people have been displaced by the disaster with more than 10,000 without power, and they are still trying to reach all the affected areas. Reportedly, the storm started in the southwestern Sardinian area of Campidano and spread from there across the island, hitting Olbia and Nuoro the worst. Apparently the port in Olbia remains functional and the airport is open to an extent.
The coast guard is reporting that there has been flooding in other areas of Italy including Catanzaro in the region of Calabria and there was flooding in Venice during high tide. However, it was Sardinia that was hit the worst in an “apocalyptic’ type of storm, leaving devastation behind it and at least 17 people dead.
By: Anne Sewell
Globe and Mail