23 May 2023

Italy agrees £1.8 billion aid package for flooded north

23 May 2023

The Italian government has approved more than two billion euros (£1.77 billion) in aid for the flood-stricken northern region of Emilia-Romagna.

The government is considering raising by one euro the price of admission tickets to state museums, Premier Giorgia Meloni said.

The money would be earmarked to help pay for repairs to damaged cultural institutions.

Also being considered is a special lotto game to raise funds.

Ms Meloni told reporters that the assistance approved at a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday includes the suspension of tax payments as well as utility bills over the coming months.

Mortgage payments in areas considered disaster zones will also be suspended.

“In the situation which Italy finds itself, finding two billion euros in a few days isn’t an easy thing,” Ms Meloni said.

She cited many of the categories receiving aid, including education, where laptops must be purchased for students who cannot reach schools because of the flooding.

For workers temporarily left jobless because farms and businesses were destroyed or left inaccessible, some 580 million euros (£503 million) were allocated.

The flooding last week claimed at least 14 lives. Twenty-one rivers overran their banks and at least 300 landslides were triggered by a heavy concentration of rainfall, which could not be absorbed by terrain that had been parched by lack of rain for weeks.

Emilia-Romagna Governor Stefano Bonaccini, who appeared with Ms Meloni at the news conference, expressed thanks for the swift approval of aid, but noted that the region “has wounds and will have them for a while”.

“There are people who lost everything, or who lost almost everything,” Mr Bonaccini said.

There are those with businesses which can’t operate in large part because some 600 roads were blocked or destroyed by landslides or flooding, the governor said.

He estimated the cost of road damage alone at one billion euros.

Other sectors, such as the important agricultural sector of the region’s economy, known for its production of fruit, honey, wheat, pork and poultry are still calculating losses.

Also among the areas badly damaged were many beach resorts along the Adriatic Sea, a stretch of coast popular with tourists from Italy and northern Europe.

The aid package includes some 700 million euros (£607 million) for companies from the region whose exports were devastated. Emilia-Romagna is the leading region in Italy in terms of export-value per capita.

To help coordinate the efforts, Italy’s recently appointed drought commission was tasked on Tuesday with also managing drainage projects, to help rid the area of floodwaters.

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