Sunday 3 August 2014

Four dead in Italian flash flood.

Four people are known to have died and about twenty more have been injured after a thunderstorm caused a flash flood near Refrontolo in the Veneto Region of northern Italy slightly before midnight on Saturday 2 August 2014. The storm triggered a series of mudslides, which in turn caused the waters on a stream to rise by about 2 m. Unfortunately a local festival was taking place beside the stream, with about festival goers, tents, cars and stalls directly in the path of the floodwaters, resulting people being swept as far as 4 km downstream.

Rescue workers near Refrontolo following the 2 August 2014 flood. Paolo Balanza/AFP.

Landslides are a common problem after severe weather events, as excess pore water pressure can overcome cohesion in soil and sediments, allowing them to flow like liquids. Approximately 90% of all landslides are caused by heavy rainfall. It is thought that on this occasion the floods may have been made worse by the practice of building haystacks beside streams in the area, and that hay swept into the river may have combined with the mud to form a dam, with temporarily blocked the waterway, before giving way abruptly resulting in the flash flood.

The approximate location of the 2 August 2014 Refrontolo flash flood. Google Maps.

Northern Italy has suffered exceptional rainfall this year, which Italian meteorologists report is about 73% above average. This has led to a series of problems, including several flash floods, but these are the first reported fatalities.

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