‘Apocalyptic’ torrential rains wreak havoc on Italian island of Sardinia, killing 18

Wednesday, November 20, 2013
By Paul Martin

November 19, 2013

SARDINIA, Italy – A storm has killed at least 16 people on the Italian island of Sardinia, with two people unaccounted for and fears the death toll will rise, officials say. Confirming the deaths to CNN affiliate Sky TG24, Regional President Ugo Cappellacci described the situation as ‘dramatic and critical.’ Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta held a Cabinet meeting to declare a state of emergency in Sardinia. He told reporters the government has allocated 20 million euros ($27 million) in immediate aid to the Mediterranean island. The money will be used to help save lives, assist the displaced and repair roads, he said. Italian President Giorgio Napolitano issued a statement expressing solidarity with the affected communities. Olbia Mayor Gianni Giovannelli said the city had been destroyed by the “apocalyptic” storm, with bridges felled and water levels reaching 10 feet (3.5 m) in some places. He described the ferocity of the storm’s rains as a “water bomb.”Civil Protection Agency spokeswoman Francesca Maffini said that the two missing people were a farmer and a woman who lived alone.

Both were in the province of Nuoro, she said. Maffini told CNN the island had received six months’ worth of rainfall — 450 mm (more than a foot) — in 12 hours. Addressing lawmakers in Italy’s Parliament on Tuesday, Environment Minister Andrea Orlando said the area had an average rainfall of 1,000 mm, and a similar deluge had not occurred there in centuries. Italy’s state news agency ANSA reported that flooding from the storm — named locally as Cleopatra — forced many people to flee their homes, with thousands seeking shelter in public facilities such as gymnasiums. ANSA said a Brazilian family of four was among the dead: a mother, father and two teenage children drowned when a flash flood hit their ground-floor flat in Arzachena, near Olbia. The Civil Protection Agency said 2,500 people have been displaced and more than 10,000 people are without electricity. The agency is still trying to reach all the areas affected, it said in a statement. Widespread flooding and landslides have blocked roads, and the agency urged motorists to drive only when necessary and to check road conditions before beginning a journey. -CNN (excerpt)

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