|The devastation caused by flash flooding in Genoa [AFP]
Flash flooding in the Italian port of Genoa is now thought to have killed at least six people.
Torrential rainfall during Friday resulted in raging torrents of water cascading through the largest city on Italy’s northwestern coast. The force of the water was sufficient to sweep motor vehicles through the city’s streets, leaving them piled high like discarded children’s toys.
Whilst one woman was reported to have been crushed by the moving cars, it is thought that five victims, including two children, died after the lobby of the apartment block in which they were sheltering, flooded. Several people are also reported missing.
Worringly, these deaths occurred despite adequate and accurate forecasts of the rain. Whilst Genoa’s mayor Marta Vicenzi claimed it was a “completely unexpected tragedy’, residents have criticized her decision not to close local schools in advance of the rain and Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi blamed poor construction for a lack of adequate runoff and buildings “erected where they shouldn’t be’.
It is not the first time that the port city of Genoa has been hit by killer floods - in 1970, 35 people died after several rivers burst their banks following 48 hours of non-stop rain.
The rainstorm was the same weather system which gave an unusually early and heavy snowstorm across the northeastern seaboard of the United States last week.
Genoa was not alone in facing torrential rain. The system affected much of Tuscany and Liguria with rainfall totals in excess of 500 millimetres in just a few hours, with the Spezia region being worst affected. Across these regions five bodies have been recovered and another ten people are missing.
The rain also caused the postponement of Genoa’s Serie A football match against Inter Milan. Motorways in the area have been closed and flights at the local airport re-routed.
A flood alert remains in force across the region as further heavy rainfall is expected during Sunday and possibly Monday.