ROME: A violent downpour caused a flash flood late on Saturday that swept up dozens attending a local summer festival in northern Italy, killing four men and injuring about 20 others, rescuers and officials said.
About 100 people had gathered near the banks of a stream in the foothills of the Alps near the town of Refrontolo for the annual gathering when a thunderstorm hit, sending a wall of water and mud into the festival, the fire department said.
“Nobody had ever seen anything like it. There were 2 metres of water. People grabbed onto trees to save themselves,” Mirco Lorenzon, a local civil protection official, said in an interview broadcast by SkyTG24 on Sunday. The storm caused about 50 mudslides and much property damage in the area, Lorenzon said. Pictures and videos posted online showed cars that had been swept away in the flood lying upside-down in the stream or stranded sideways against trees.
“There was an hour-and-a-half of rain so heavy that you couldn’t see anything,” said Luca Zaia, governor of the Veneto region, during a visit to the site of the disaster on Sunday. “Within the hour, I will sign papers declaring a state of emergency for the area,” Zaia said in a television interview. Deadly floods and mudslides are not uncommon in Italy. Last November storms in Sardinia caused floods that killed 18 people.
Meanwhile, Rescue teams evacuated over 500 people overnight from the small Bulgarian town of Mizia after torrential rains caused flooding that claimed at least one casualty, an interior ministry official said on Sunday. Rescue teams with boats and helicopters were still evacuating stranded people on Sunday. One man was found dead in his flooded home, said Nikola Nikolov, head of the ministry’s fire safety and civil protection unit.
Over 50 houses have collapsed after the Skut River, which runs through the town, burst its banks. Hundreds of houses remain under water. Another town and several villages in the northwestern area, which is close to the Danube, were also hit by floods.
“It was terrible, terrible. The water kept coming and coming. My home is under water. Luckily I have an aunt who lives in the higher parts of the town. I think we will be at least 30 people in that house tonight,” Valia Mircheva, a farmer from Mizia, told BTV television. The rains have ceased, and weather forecasters say they do not expect heavy rain in the next few days. Floods this summer have killed more than 15 people in Balkan countries Bulgaria and Romania.
Three people drowned in southwestern Romania and another was missing after heavy floods last week, which hit over 250 villages and triggered the evacuation of over 2,000 people. Around 11 Bulgarians died after a flood wave ripped through the Black Sea city of Varna in June. In late May, Balkan countries Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia were hit by the heaviest rainfall since records began 120 years ago.
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