The Emilia Romagna Formula One Grand Prix due to be held at Imola this weekend has been called off as it is “not possible to safely hold the event” due to heavy flooding in the region, organisers said on Wednesday.
Five people have died after heavy rains caused flooding across Italy’s northern Emilia Romagna region.
At Imola, the Santerno river which borders the track was flooded and race organisers had asked journalists and team staff not to go to the circuit on Wednesday.
Formula One said in a statement that following high level discussions “the decision has been taken not to proceed with the Grand Prix weekend at Imola”.
“The decision has been taken because it is not possible to safely hold the event for our fans, the teams and our personnel and it is the right and responsible thing to do given the situation faced by the towns and cities in the region,” it added.
“It would not be right to put further pressure on the local authorities and emergency services at this difficult time.”
The civil protection agency said 14 rivers had broken their banks across the region between Tuesday and Wednesday, and 23 towns were flooded.
It urged “maximum caution”, as mayors warned people to stay on high ground.
“About 5,000 people have been evacuated, but that number might rise,” Civil Protection Minister Nello Musumeci told Radio 24.
‘They are heroes’
In Forli, an AFP photographer saw people in a state of shock late Tuesday, fleeing through floodwaters in the dark in their bare feet.
Images showed streets transformed into rivers, and firemen moving people to safety in rubber dinghies.
Elsewhere, muddy waters rushed at great speed under the arches of the covered walkways in Bologna, while locals in Cesena swam down a road to rescue a three-year-old child.
“We absolutely must not lower our guard,” Cesena mayor Enzo Lattuca said on Facebook.
Residents “must not under any account go into basements or cellars”, and should “stay out of ground floors if possible”, he said.
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni on Tuesday tweeted her support for those affected and said the government was “ready to intervene with the necessary aid”.
Some areas saw almost 300 millimetres of rain in just a few hours, Repubblica daily said.
Much of northern Italy suffered a drought last winter, on top of a record lack of rain last summer that ruined harvests.
However, spring has been wetter and colder than normal across the country.
For Formula One President and CEO Stefano Domenicali, the floods affected him personally.
“It is such a tragedy to see what has happened to Imola and Emilia-Romagna, the town and region that I grew up in, and my thoughts and prayers are with the victims of the flooding and the families and communities affected,” he said in a statement.
“I want to express my gratitude and admiration for the incredible emergency services who are working tirelessly to help those who need help and alleviate the situation.
“They are heroes and the whole of Italy is proud of them.”
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