Genoa hit by fatal floods

Monday 07th Nov 2011 by theWeather Club

Image: Steven Chiefa

At least six people were killed and several remain missing as torrential rain sent floodwaters raging through the Italian city of Genoa last Friday. Several of the victims, including two children, died as water swept through the lobby of an apartment block in which they had sought shelter. Another victim was killed by cars being swept along by the fierce torrents. Hundreds of shops were flooded and emergency officials urged residents to move to high ground as rivers such as the Fereggiano burst their banks. Firefighters used rubber dinghies and even divers to evacuate people, officials said.

Motorways in the area were closed and flights re-routed away from the local airport. Television footage showed cars floating and people wading knee deep through flooded streets. The Genoa city website advised people not to leave their homes and to climb to the upper floors. "This was a completely unexpected tragedy," said Genoa mayor Marta Vicenzi. But not everybody agrees, there was anger alongside the sorrow as residents believed that her office had not taken enough precautions having had prior warning of the heavy rains. "Shame on you, shame, go home, resign," were some of the shouts that greeted the mayor as she toured some of the most affected areas on Saturday. Many residents were angry that the mayor's office failed to close down schools and ban traffic on Friday, arguing that lives could have been saved and some of the destruction avoided.

The finger has also been pointed at lax planning regulations which have allowed buildings to creep ever closer to the several waterways that flow through the city, in some cases only three metres from the water as opposed to the ten metres that used to be more common. Even Prime Minister Berlusconi took time out from his more pressing economic worries to condemn the presence of buildings being 'erected where they shouldn't be'.

This is the worst such disaster in Genoa since similar flash floods killed 25 people 41 years ago. The flooding has been part of a wider series of incidents caused by heavy rains that have hit Italy in recent days. Last week the government declared a state of emergency in the north western Liguria region and Tuscany after storms lashed the coastal regions, killing at least 10 people and causing widespread flooding and mudslides.