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At least 10 dead in flooding after Italy is hit by unprecedented rains

People begin the cleanup work after heavy rains and deadly floods hammered the central Italian region of Marche, in Cantiano, Italy, on Friday. (Yara Nardi/Reuters)
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ROME — Several hours of extraordinary rainfall triggered flooding across a stretch of central Italy early Friday and left at least 10 dead, with several others missing, according to authorities.

As the rainfall stopped, rescue crews scrambled through mud and around fallen trees to look for survivors. Some people had taken refuge on rooftops or held onto branches amid the flooding. Italian media reported several searing accounts, including a mother and daughter who were believed to have been swept away while getting out of their car.

“All citizens are ordered to not leave their homes and go to higher floors,” one hard-hit town wrote in an all-caps bulletin on Facebook as the high water surged.

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While Italy has had deadlier floods over the decades, the event marked yet another example of extreme weather, following a record drought that had sapped lakes and rivers and devastated crops. Fabrizio Curcio, the head of Italy’s civil protection department, said the flooded area over a matter of hours saw “about one-third of the rainfall you’d usually get in a year.”

“There were moments of terror with truly extraordinary levels of water,” Curcio said.

A spokesman for the civil protection department said the area had been hit with 400 millimeters, or about 15.75 inches, of rain.

While it is difficult to connect any single event to climate change, experts say moments of extreme weather are becoming more common — including in Italy, which has seen melting Alpine glaciers, summer wildfires and rising seas that are chipping away at coastal cities.

In a visit to the flooded region, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said flooding risks had become an “emergency with climate change” and would require steps for prevention, including infrastructure investment.

“It also means tackling climate change,” Draghi said.

The flooding Friday stretched across the Marche region, from the inland hills to the Adriatic coast. Some mayors of the hard-hit towns noted that there had been no indication that such an extreme event might be coming.

“[There was] only a yellow alert from the civil protection for wind and rain,” Maurizio Greci, the mayor of Sassoferrato, told Italian radio. “Nothing could foretell such a disaster.”

The Italian region of Marche experienced deadly flooding on Sept. 16. Rescuers searched for missing people. (Video: Reuters)

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Photos from Friday showed people beginning the cleanup work, trudging through mud, holding shovels, drying off belongings.

The head of the Marche region, Francesco Acquaroli, wrote on his verified Facebook page that he’d spoken with Italian President Sergio Mattarella as well as Draghi, who offered support for “every necessary need.”

“The pain over what happened is deep,” Acquaroli wrote.