The inhabitants of Emilia-Romagna clean themselves of the mud: “the water beat furiously at the door”
In Sant’Agata sul Santerno, everyone tries to save what can be saved. It’s not much anymore. The small municipality in the province of Ravenna was hit hard by last Wednesday’s flood, and a layer of mud has since stained the village chocolate brown. A few days later, the inhabitants are still busy pumping water from their homes and scrubbing the floors to make the ground floor habitable again. As civil protection cannot do the job alone, the farmers lend a hand. They go back and forth to remove the loosened debris.
Many young volunteers are also rolling up their sleeves. Students, but also very young schoolchildren in the neighborhood, have been going door to door for days, clearing the mud in rubber boots and armed with shovels and brooms. The young boots were soon dubbed “mud angels” by grateful residents. On the wall of an empty house, someone wrote “Long live Romagna”, named after the region affected, with mud, with a big heart next to it.
Help is desperately needed. In Sant’Agata, a few days later, the streets are still buried under a thick layer of sticky mud. On the sidewalk of every street are yard-long rows of soaking wet household items and rotting wooden furniture. “My room is right there, on the street,” explains Loris Zaffagnini, 56, a disability worker. His newly paid house is now uninhabitable. Her sisters clean the house with bottled water. “There’s no other way, I haven’t had running water for days.”
There in the street is my room
Loris Zaffagnini inhabitant of Sant’Agata sul Santerno
Mauro Ballardini (45) also receives help from half the family. All the furniture on the ground floor is on the street. “Our eight-year-old daughter was wondering why all her toys were floating around the living room,” says Ballardini, a farmhand. Water from the house crept over the radiators. “The street turned into a raging river that surrounded our house,” he says. “The water banged furiously against the door, like a boiling pot with the lid on. There was no restraint. The family with two young children lost all the furniture on the ground floor and two cars parked on the street. After the storm, the lookout suddenly rose two meters. We are not insured for storm damage. Repairs and new furniture will cost us at least 25,000 euros,” Ballardini estimates.
Also in the central shopping street of Lugo, which was also completely flooded, people are constantly worried and calculating during the cleaning. Mauro Cassani estimates the damage suffered by his furniture store at at least 100,000 euros. “I was only insured for fire damage,” says Cassani, carrying soaked wooden planks outside. “I don’t see it at the moment.” Traders rub side by side and cheer each other on.
The Romagnoli people of the affected region are proud of their hard work and work ethic. Sitting with the costumes is not for them. Sometimes there’s even room for a little gallows humor in Lugo. In front of Roberto Albonetti’s insurance office, an impressive pile of soggy insurance files awaits the next round of the garbage service. “Oh, look at our old archives. Was that also suddenly cleared up?
Floods in the Emilia-Romagna region, the second flood in two weeks, appear to have taken their toll. First, there is the human toll. Fourteen people died and 36,000 residents had to leave their homes.
National and regional authorities have provisionally estimated the damage to roads and infrastructure at 620 million euros. And if it is still difficult to give a precise figure, the farmers of the region estimate that their damage could exceed 2 billion euros. According to the farmers’ organization Coldiretti, more than five thousand farms were flooded last week.
World famous products
Emilia-Romagna is one of the most important agricultural regions in Italy, and therefore in Europe. Arable farming, fruit growing and animal husbandry are not only crucial for Italian food production, the region also produces well-known wine varieties and world-famous products such as Parma ham and Parmesan cheese.
Last week not only dozens of municipalities were flooded. At least 250 landslides occurred in higher areas, where livestock and fruit farming are practiced. Arborist Riccardo Marchetti (26) decided at dawn on Wednesday to cross his land by car to measure the damage, he says during a walk through the now sun-drenched hills around Fontanelice, in the province of Bologna. “What I saw was apocalyptic,” says the young farmer. “Here and there I heard poof-poof-poof. The sound of a mass of earth that has just collapsed.
Roads were blocked, hill villages and farms were completely closed. Rudy Carapia (36), who grows fruit and raises cows, gets into his little Fiat Panda. A bigger car is still too risky on the crumbled road. Working on his farm is perilous. He spends the night in the valley and walks five kilometers each day to his cows. “Do you see that helicopter in the sky? He brings fodder to my farm, and to those of other closed farmers in the area. The two farmers look dejectedly at the broken road, which looks like a piece of chocolate cake broken with greed.
It was apocalyptic. I heard the ground crumble
Richard Marchetti fruit grower in Fontanelice
The weather conditions are becoming more and more extreme, farmers know it, while the climate of northern Italy has always been extremely suitable for agriculture. “With its wet winters followed by snowmelt in the spring, followed by hot, but certainly not stifling, summers, it was ideal for us, explains Riccardo Marchetti. There has never been a shortage of water here. With a deluge in May.”
Italy has gone from one extreme to the other this spring. After a long period of drought, the north in particular suddenly had to deal with persistent showers, which the parched ground could not absorb. Climate experts call the Mediterranean region a climate change “hotspot” because it is so close to Africa. Scientists warn that global warming will make extreme weather events even more frequent.
The newspaper The Republic is sounding the alarm: the Italian government must start treating climate change as a matter of national security. According to the newspaper, the infrastructures must be adapted to the climatic risks and evacuation plans must be drawn up for the inhabitants of the dangerous zones. At school, the younger generation must purposely learn to deal with climate change.
“It literally wakes me up,” Marchetti says. “Our generation of young farmers is facing completely new problems. We are in the line of sight. »
A version of this article also appeared in the newspaper on May 22, 2023.
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