Italy cancels Grand Prix after devastating Emilia Romagna floods kill 9

Rescuers take people to safety during rescue operations, in Forli, Italy after floods hit Italy’s northern Emilia-Romagna region, in this handout image released May 17, 2023. — Reuters

The Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, the sixth round of the 2021 Formula One season, has been called off due to severe rain and flooding in the northern Italian region. 

Italy’s civil protection agency had issued a red alert weather warning on Monday, and Transport Minister Matteo Salvini called for the race to be postponed to cope with the emergency. 

Local organisers and Formula One agreed that the event could not be safely held, calling off the race. Last year’s race had drawn a weekend crowd of 129,000. 

The Imola circuit has the Santerno river flowing alongside it, and while the paddock remained free of flooding, water levels were rising, with surrounding areas waterlogged. 

This year’s event was scheduled to be the first triple header of the season, followed by Monaco and Spain on successive weekends. Ferrari joined other teams in supporting the cancellation, stating that the safety of those in the affected areas should be the main priority. The race was set to be the first in Europe and is the second to be cancelled this season after the Australian Grand Prix was cancelled in March.

Torrential rain and flooding caused devastation across Italy’s northern Emilia Romagna region, resulting in the cancellation of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. 

Nearly two dozen rivers burst their banks due to heavy rain that pounded the region’s flatlands for two days, putting vast stretches of territory underwater. At least nine people died, with most in the area around Forli and Cesena. Thousands of residents were evacuated from their homes, while flooding occurred in 41 municipalities, and an even greater number reported landslides. 

The agricultural industry was significantly affected, but the full extent of the damage remains unclear. Television images showed emergency workers carrying residents across flooded streets, while cars were submerged in water and thick mud and debris filled the streets in areas where the water had receded. 

The flooding was so severe that the Imola circuit, situated near the Santerno river, was deemed unsafe for the race to be held. Organisers and local officials believed it was the right decision, with Formula One chief executive Stefano Domenicali, who was born in Imola, saying that the safety of those in the region should be the priority.

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