This weekend’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari, in Imola, could be a very wet one, as rain and floods ravage the region ahead of Round 6 of the 2023 Formula 1 World Championship.
As F1 transporters, teams and media personnel descend on Imola for the race, with practice set for Friday, torrential rain lashed Italy’s northern region over, Emilia Romagna the ‘eye of the strom’ over the last 48 hours, causing extensive flooding and killing at least two people, rescuers and media reported on Wednesday.
An elderly cyclist drowned when he was swept away by flood waters in the town of Castel Bolognese, Ansa news agency reported. The body of a man aged around 70 was found in a house that collapsed in the nearby village of Fontanelice, a spokesman for the fire service told Reuters.
The rain follows months of drought which raised concerns about the low water level in the Po, Italy’s largest river, which runs West to East through the northern part of Emilia Romagna.
Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said in a statement she was in “constant contact” with the authorities involved and expressed “solidarity and closeness” to those affected by the flooding.
The Imola Regional Weather Service issued a highest-alert, red-level rain warning with forecasters predicting almost 160mm of rain on Tuesday and a further 110mm on Wednesday.
Calls to cancel the Grand Prix because of landslide threats have been made
The rain is expected to ease ahead of this weekend’s race, but predictions indicate that Saturday afternoon’s qualifying session will be hit by fresh rainfall and a potential storm. The threat of more floods and landslides prompted calls for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix to be abandoned.
While this is unlikely, unless the situation turns into a proper insurance-covered force majeure for FOM. At the same time, wet weather at this time of the year is common and the month of May at Imola tends to be a ‘wet’ one as history has shown over the years.
Meanwhile, with rescue efforts ongoing, the fire brigade said it had carried out around 400 rescue operations, evacuating dozens of people. Rail operator Trenitalia said several services were suspended while a number of streets were closed.
The head of Italy’s civil protection agency said he was travelling to the flood-hit area and Environment Minister Gilberto Pichetto Fratin promised help for those affected, he wrote on Facebook: “The government stands by the people in difficulty: today for the emergency, which must be backed by adequate economic resources, but from now on to accelerate (infrastructure) measures that are needed for safety.”