Floods in Italy
It can happen to anybody/anywhere, and it does: climate change tragedies these last weeks have been hitting Italy.
After the recent flood and the first Liguria Genoa crisis, in the past days we witnessed again heavy rains, mud slides and floods in northern Italy. It was expected, we were warned and yet, it seems six people, including two children, had to die in downtown Genova.
Only a few days ago a huge Festival of Science was held within the old mysterious city: scientists from all over the world flew for the 150th anniversary of Italian unity and this colossal celebration of Italian science and history: from Cristoforo Colombo to Rita Levi Montalcini. And yet when it comes to global warming and present-day politics and economics, modern science is a huge public failure: that history repeats itself not as a farce but as disaster.
After this most recent flood, the president of Italian republic Napolitano asks those responsible to open an inquiry: could those deaths could have been prevented? The planet’s polluted atmosphere is an Italian homicide case. While the always optimist premiere of the Italian bunga bunga Republic, Silvio Berlusconi declared: Italy is not in crisis! Just check out the restaurants, they are all full all the time!
The rainfall in 12 hours in Genoa was one third of what the town used to get in an entire year. Flooding struck in 17 minutes. Flood warning levels were stuck at “yellow” in the zone, so no one was forced to evacuate. Cities can’t react that fast.
Endless Twitter messages photos and movies bore witness of this new-normal monsoon in Genoa.
A 19 year old who was on her motorbike, fetching her 14 year old brother, died in the flash flood that hit them both. The boy miraculously survived. A woman newspaper vendor in a kiosk was just swept away together with her three neighbors (a woman and two children) whose house turned into a tomb.
Isolated images of timeless human tragedy, from Pompeii to Fukushima, are documented by new media, often the hand-held devices of the victims themselves.
“Death broadcast live” is becoming a new-media staple of the Italian public scene. In Italy, as distinguished from everywhere else, they scream and cry a lot and curse and ask the heavens for answers, but although it is a Catholic country, prayer rarely seems efficacious.
I always admired the corrupted limping democracy in the squares if the young Italian republic: people have the guts and instincts of a real democracy.
Italians are now politely asked not to drive their cars into flash floods, and to avoid the streets in dangerous emergency situations. So, closeted in their broadband wifi, they tweet and send pictures on their networks, daily papers, local TVs. Government offers emergency decrees, but it is local volunteers, often from traditionally-rival cities, who do the grunt-work of street-level disaster relief.
Italy is becoming a chief rival of Greece in the break-up the euro and the European Union. Italy and her mercurial premiere have to be monitored closely in order to prevent the downfall of all. One would think that the population of Italy would be best suited to this task.
This Saturday in Rome a big peaceful manifestation “Dignita,” organized by the major opposition party to Berlusconi, was a success. But the premiere resists: did any Italian ruler ever give up power merely from the public demand? Although the latest twitter rumors are that he might!
From Torino to Sardegna, people are evacuated and local governments monitor the skies, hoping to avoid the
Genoa tragedy, where citizens dig through mud in downtown public squares, searching for goods and clues.
Genoa is on her knees, while Torino lifts her skirts above the rising River Po. Newspaper headlines here declare IT WILL HAPPEN AGAIN. The new normal is scary, but living in denial is so much worse!
We walked the banks of Torino this morning after a night of public anxiety: children are not going to school (universities are closed too). Kids walk the damp streets with their parents, watching the dark, swirling river. Helicopters cut the grey sky, police cars and striped barrier-tape keep all us potential fatalities away from the danger zones, zones which consists of the town’s beloved river ferries, river restaurants, The Borgo Medioveale museum…
In Turin the people are serious and well-behaved, crowds dressed mostly in somber grey with occasional eye-catching bright orange items, which seem to signal the presence of a mystic cult. I can remember worse floods here, especially in 2000, when we were evacuated from downtown to the hills, and also in May 2008. I receive emails of worried friends from elsewhere, as I write this. It is still raining in Torino, on and off. Tonight will be another vigil for the floods still to arrive. More dead people and more missing people, but in southern Italy, this time.
The mayor of Genova declared a feeling of remorse and guilt for his city’s dead. A good sign for the living!