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From Drought to Flood

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    Rescuers help people in Faenza, Italy. (AP/Luca Bruno)


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Heavy rains in northern Italy led to deadly floods. Now rescue crews work to reach villages cut off from roads, electricity, and phone service.

Over the past year, northern Italy has experienced intense drought. A hard rainfall might sound like a welcome change. But those days of drought turned the soil hard and dry. The ground lost much of its ability to absorb water. Instead of feeding the soil, this month’s rain caused rivers and tributaries to overflow.

Claudia lives in the city of Faenza. She remembers the moment the Lamone river burst its banks. “At some point they told us all to leave the area, and about one hour later we heard a loud boom,” she says. “The water just flooded all over.”

Stefano Bonaccini is president of the Emilia-Romagna region, which was hit hardest by the floods. He says nine people have died.

When the floods came, over 10,000 people fled their homes. Mud and water filled the streets, covering cars and pouring into basements. Some residents huddled on rooftops to await rescue by helicopter. Some took shelter in local gymnasiums. One family heaped belongings into an inflatable pool, using it as a raft to float down the street.

Some small villages have become completely isolated. Landslides covered the roads. These villages lost access to phone service, electricity, and gas.

Northern Italy will likely struggle with the effects of this flood for a long time. Last year’s droughts already hurt local communities. Earlier this month, hard rain caused about a billion euros ($1.1 billion) in damage. According to Bonaccini, the latest floods have increased the damage costs to multiple billions of euros.

Much of that destruction came to northern Italy’s farmland. Over 5,000 farms with greenhouses, nurseries, and stables were flooded. The storms wiped out thousands of acres of vineyards, fruit groves, vegetable farms, and grain fields. Leftover mud could cause permanent harm to the roots of crops.

Bonaccini has called for the Italian government to declare a state of emergency. This will likely happen next week, when Italy’s Cabinet meets.

We can pray for the rescue workers and villagers of northern Italy. Ask God to give them shelter, food, and safety.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you. — Isaiah 43:2

(Rescuers help people in Faenza, Italy. AP/Luca Bruno)