Prime Minister Enrico Letta declares a state of emergency as the death toll rises to 17 after Cyclone Cleopatra hit the island of Sardinia. Over the course of hours, the cyclone beat the Italian coast where flooding now persists and continues to claim lives. Water was reported to reach up to 10 feet. Emergency crews rush in amid the chaos of cars floating away and bridges collapsing. Many people are reported missing and the death toll is expected to rise.
Among the victims were a dead mother and child, found inside a car. Their car was swept away by the heavy floods. Rescue crews are not safe. A police officer, trying to escort an ambulance across a bridge, died when the structure collapsed on him. The mountainous part of the island was not protected either. Already, a woman in her 90’s was found dead in her house from flooding.
Those citizens that did survive through the storm took to Facebook and started a group “let us open our homes to our fellow citizens” in Italian as “Apriamo le nostre case ai nostri concittadini.” Members of the group are posting their phone numbers and addresses. Photos of the areas of Sardinia are uploaded and shared among members.
The hospitals are also overflowing. Many people in Sardinia have rushed in with hypothermia. Others are taking refuge in sports halls. It is estimated that more than 2,500 were evacuated from their homes. Sardinia’s whole island has been affected and Italian officials told reporters it is the worst catastrophe in decades. Some referred to the response efforts as “maximum alert” efforts. The worst hit area was a port in the town of Olbia. Currently, the heavy rains are expected to move across Italy and are presumed to flood even Venice.
Cyclones are created in areas of low pressure. Depending on the region of the world, storms are categorized as hurricanes, cyclones or typhoons. The only cyclone that ever hit Europe was Hurricane Vince in 2005. Weather centers attributed deep areas of low pressure forming over the Mediterranean as the cause. The island is popular for it’s turquoise water and dry Mediterranean climate. The cooler months do bring more rain but never did the island experience that amount of water (400 milliliters) in 24 hours.
The Governor of Sardinia described the scene as “dramatic” while the mayor referred to the storm as “apocalyptic.”
The countryside was also found to be completely submerged and many are still missing from all around Sardinia. Television stations showed the scenes of muddy floodwater from the rivers that overflowed in the streets. Cars on the roads are completely submerged and the water comes up halfway on houses. As people try to walk through the streets of Sardinia, their bodies are half immersed in water. Images of the freight ships off the coast tossed around in the high waves of white water Mediterranean.
The Italian Minister of Environment, Andrea Orlando, who was due to be in Warsaw for the UN summit about climate change, is said to have postponed his trip due to the extreme situation in Sardinia. Cyclone Cleopatra has not only prompted a state of emergency but also endangers the rest of Italy. Death toll reports grow with the hours.
By Cayce Manesiotis