Lake Como floods: Popular Italian holiday destination hit by landslides

·3-min read
An elderly woman rescued by firefighters from her home  (Vigili del Fuoco via AP)
An elderly woman rescued by firefighters from her home (Vigili del Fuoco via AP)

Firefighters rescued more than 60 people from their homes in towns surrounding Lake Como in northern Italy after they were trapped by landslides.

Dozens of people – including an elderly woman, and a disabled person and their carer – were isolated in their homes by the landslides and floods caused by severe storms.

No deaths or injuries were reported.

Torrential rain had caused streams and rivers to swell, sending water and mud rushing downhill from the mountains into the lake, local news website QuiComo reported.

About 50 residents were trapped in their homes when a landslide caused a gas leak in Brienno, a town located on the western shore of the lake that is a popular holiday and wedding location.

Further south, in Cernobbio, a block of flats threatened with flooding was evacuated by fire crews.

QuiComo described the damage as “enormous” in Cernobbio, where cars were seen having been overturned and dragged by torrents of muddy water. Pictures also show roads being blocked by broken trees and rubble.

Argegno, Colonno, Laglio, and Moltrasio – all towns on the west coast of the lake – were also affected.

The weather remains unstable and more thunderstorms are expected over the weekend, QuiComo reported, with just a few days’ respite from the severe weather on Thursday and Friday.

Italian agricultural lobby group Coldiretti claim extreme and changeable weather has intensified in recent years, citing more frequent, sudden and violent storms.

The group said: “We are facing in Italy the consequences of climate change, with a trend toward tropicalisation and the multiplication of extreme events.”

The group estimates there has been £12 billion worth of damage over the last decade to agriculture production, buildings and infrastructure due to flooding and landslides.

The extreme weather in Lake Como that started on Monday comes just a day after hailstones bigger than the size of tennis balls damaged nearly 100 cars and disrupted traffic on a major road near Bologna in northern Italy.

Drivers had to pull over to the side of the roads and motorways as their windshields were being shattered by the hailstones, footage from Sunday shows.

Analysis shows that hailstorms are occurring at the rate of 11 a day this summer, Coldiretti said, and 386 have taken place so far this year. These figures represent a stark rise from the 92 hailstorms in 2018 and the 198 that happened in 2019.

Coldiretti attributes a 40 per cent drop in peach and apricot harvests and a 50 per cent drop in nectarines to hailstorms in “this crazy climate”.

Pietro Foroni, the regional councillor for civil protection, inspected the Lake Como area on Wednesday. He said that there is “no memory” of such “storm phenomena” happening before.

He added that the Lombardy Region will “ensure the necessary resources to restore the safety conditions of the areas concerned” but that funding must also come from central government in Rome.

Mr Foroni continued: “It is now that the state also plays its part without unloading the responsibilities on the region alone.”

Lombardy has spent about £160 million on precautions against floods, while Rome has allocated approximately £25m, he said according to a translation of a report by QuiComo.

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