ROME — Floodwaters triggered by heavy rains swept through several towns in a hilly region of central-eastern Italy early on Friday, leaving 10 people dead and several missing, state radio said. Dozens of survivors rushed to rooftops or trees to wait for help.
“It wasn’t a water bomb, it was a tsunami,” Barbara Mayor Riccardo Pasqualini told Italian public radio, describing the sudden downpour on Thursday night that devastated her town in the Marche region near the Adriatic Sea.
While firefighters said seven deaths had been confirmed and three people were missing, state radio RAI said there were 10 confirmed deaths. Two children, including one swept away from his mother’s arms by the turbulent waters in Barbara, were among the four people still missing late Friday morning.
A mother and her daughter, aged around 8, who were trying to escape floodwaters have disappeared in Barbara, the mayor told Italian news agency ANSA.
Many of the 300 firefighters deployed waded through flooded streets in waist-deep water, while others used dinghies to pick up survivors on their way. Firefighters tweeted that they rescued dozens of people from cars, rooftops and hanging from trees. Helicopters have also been deployed to bring people to safety in the most remote towns.
“It was an extreme, more than exceptional event,” climatologist Massimiliano Fazzini told state television. He said that, based on his calculations, the amount of rain that fell, concentrated over four hours and specifically over a 15-minute period, was the most in hundreds of years.
Some of the worst flooding hit the town of Senigallia, while small towns in the hills near the Renaissance tourist town of Urbino were also inundated as rivers of water, mud and debris rushed through the streets.