Friendship, hot meals for Italy’s displaced flood

Devastating floods pummelled the Emilia Romagna region in northeast Italy, leaving 14 people dead.

Devastating floods hit the Emilia Romagna region of northeastern Italy, leaving 14 people dead. – Copyright VALENTINO DARIEL SOUSA


Ludmilla distracts herself from the memories of rising floods by cleaning up around her makeshift bed in a gym at Castel Bolognese, sheltering some of those who lost their homes.

The 66-year-old has befriended young volunteers who have agreed to come with her on Sunday to inspect her damaged house in the nearby village of Solarolo and begin cleaning up.

However, she does not expect to be able to move in again for at least a month after devastating floods hit the Emilia Romagna region of northeastern Italy this week, leaving 14 people dead.

It happened “without warning,” says Ludmilla, who moved to Italy from Ukraine 16 years ago and did not want to give her last name.

“They said ‘there’s a little bit of water coming, a little bit,'” she notes, but she and her 97-year-old husband soon found themselves up to their feet in water.

“My husband said ‘I’ve seen three wars, but I’ve never seen anything like this,'” she adds.

“We were stuck there, no water, no food. I called the fire department, the police.

“They were good people, as are the volunteers here,” she says. “There is food, there is everything”.

– Alarm at three in the morning –

Ludmilla’s husband was taken to hospital. Here she can only wait for the water to disappear while volunteers move among the rows of beds, boxes of donated food and essentials.

A few beds away, neighbors Alfonso Brocchi and Iolanda Soglia reminisce about what happened.

“At three in the morning, the upstairs neighbor called me and said ‘Alfonso, come up, the water is coming,'” said Brocchi, 76, who rushed to help Soglia, who has muscular dystrophy.

His son had called the fire department to get them out, but Brocchi wasn’t sure how to reach them.

“I could get a stepladder and get through the window, but she couldn’t,” says Brocchi.

So they (the firemen) said ‘open the door’. And when I opened the door, it was like a rushing river.”

The couple were rescued along with a 102-year-old woman and taken by the fire department to a shelter.

Other displaced people are expected to arrive in a few hours, but the beds are not just for them.

Volunteers from the civil protection and rescue workers also take the opportunity to get a few hours’ sleep between shifts or relax over a hot meal.

– Feel at home –

Around 200 of the roughly 10,000 residents of Castel Bolognese were evacuated on Monday as a precaution before floods hit overnight.

The muddy water sweeping through the streets left a trail of desolation.

At the entrance to the gym, paper towels, blankets and bags of donated clothes are stacked along the wall in a line that grows longer as the day goes on.

The general noise is soothing and lulls the tired to sleep.

The shelter hopes that their efforts will help the newly homeless to live as normal a life as possible.

“After this disaster, it’s important that everyone feels at home here,” said Paola Barilli, 52, who is in charge of around 60 volunteers.

“Everyone is welcome, even animals”, she adds.

And as if to prove her right, among the guests is a family who brought their nine cats.

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