Firemen and civil protection rescuers evacuate a woman with an inflatable boat in Forli on May 17, 2023 after heavy rains have caused major floodings in central Italy, where trains were stopped and schools were closed in many towns while people were asked to leave the ground floors of their homes and to avoid going out. (PHOTO / AFP)
ROME – At least three people died and thousands were evacuated from their homes as devastating floods hit Italy's northern Emilia-Romagna region, authorities said on Wednesday, warning that worse may be yet to come.
A number of roads and rail links were blocked and the mayors of numerous towns and cities, including Bologna, urged residents not to leave their homes
"The rainfall is not over, it will continue for several hours," the deputy head of the Civil Protection Agency, Titti Postiglione, told the SkyTG24 news channel. "We are facing a very, very complicated situation."
Emilia-Romagna officials said three dead bodies had been found in the towns of Forli, Cesena and Cesenatico, while three people were missing.
ALSO READ: Australia to set up 'reliable' warning network after flooding
Fourteen rivers broke their banks in the region, forcing people in cities such as Cesena to climb onto the roof of their buildings, where firefighters rescued them with helicopters or rubber dinghies.
"Do not go near the rivers. Those who live in areas close to watercourses should move to higher floors," regional chief Stefano Bonaccini said on Facebook.
A number of roads and rail links were blocked and the mayors of numerous towns and cities, including Bologna, urged residents not to leave their homes.
ALSO READ: New Zealand pledges $720m for cyclone, flood recovery
The northern city of Ravenna, close to the Adriatic coast, was also badly affected.
"It's probably been the worst night in the history of Romagna," Ravenna Mayor Michele de Pascale told RAI public radio, saying that 5,000 people had been evacuated from his city alone overnight.
"Ravenna is unrecognizable for the damage it has suffered."
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni expressed her "total closeness to the affected population" and, writing on Twitter, said the government stood ready to provide help.
READ MORE: Thousands missing as DRC flood survivors look for relatives
It was the second time this month that Emilia-Romagna has been battered by bad weather, with at least two people dying during storms at the beginning of May.
The torrential rains followed months of drought which dried out the land, reducing its capacity to absorb water and worsening the impact of the floods, meteorologists said.