The Italian government decided on Tuesday to allocate more than two billion euros to areas in the northeast recently hit by unprecedented floods that have killed 14 people, displaced tens of thousands and caused extensive damage.
"With these first measures, we have released a total of more than two billion euros for the areas affected by the floods," said Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni after a Council of Ministers.
Six months of rain in thirty-six hours
Six months of rain fell in just 36 hours last week in Emilia-Romagna, bursting the banks of two dozen rivers, turning streets into rivers of mud and submerging vast tracts of farmland and numerous livestock farms.
The economic consequences of these floods could be much higher than the two billion announced. "We know very well that we are talking about emergencies, that there will be a reconstruction phase, but we are not now able to quantify the needs as a whole," Meloni said.
Employees on technical unemployment will thus benefit from a fund of 580 million euros, the Ministry of Agriculture has provided 175 million euros for agricultural companies while about 700 million euros are planned for the industrial sector, with particular attention to exporting companies.
"Finding two billion in a few days is not easy"
Public administration employees will be able to work from home, and those unable to work will also be paid, said the head of government.
Among the additional revenues decided to find these two billion are the temporary increase of one euro in the price of entrance tickets to museums and deductions from the state lottery.
"In Italy's current situation, finding two billion in a few days is not easy," said Meloni, whose country is the second most indebted eurozone member state behind Greece.
Emilia Romagna is one of the richest regions in Italy, contributing almost 10% of the national GDP.
According to the farmers' union Confagricoltura, at least 10 million fruit trees will have to be uprooted, a figure that could even reach 40 million.
"There are people who have lost everything, others who have lost almost everything," said Stefano Bonaccini, president of the region, who was with Giorgia Meloni.
"We need urgent action. Some sectors have been affected dramatically, I am thinking of agriculture and tourism," Bonaccini said, adding that European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen would visit the region on Thursday.
Roads closed and bombs discovered
More than 600 roads were still closed on Monday, with the region estimating over the weekend that around €620 million was needed to restore the road network. These movements of water and earth led to the discovery of fourteen old bombs that were eliminated by the army's artificers.
"In recent days we found 14 military bombs, most of which could not explode, but as a precaution the army artificers detonated them all," said a local military source, without being able to specify which war the bombs dated.
The agricultural union Coldiretti has issued an alert about this problem, as the passage of tractors is likely to trigger an explosion.
Climate change at issue
Three weeks ago, Emilia-Romagna had already been affected by heavy rains and floods that killed two people.
According to experts, human-induced climate change is increasing the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events, such as heat waves, droughts and forest fires, but also storms accompanied by heavy rains.
Italy is paradoxically hit by a state of chronic drought. The government's drought commissioner, appointed in April, now sees his powers extended to floods as well, Meloni said on Tuesday.
- Climate change
- Natural disaster