SaferPlaces’ mentor and Professor of hydrology, water resources, planning and management, flood-risk assessment and mitigation at the University of Bologna, Attilio Castellarin, provided a clear explanation during a BBC World News live interview about the extreme flooding emergency that hit the Emilia-Romagna region, in Italy, during May 2023.

He explained how this emergency, started between 16 and 17 of May, was caused by a cyclonic disturbance producing large amount of rainfall, and causing an unprecedented event in term of spatial extent and time persistence. More than 20 rivers burst their banks, simultaneously overtopping and generating breaches towards the floodplains where human activities are concentrated.

What can authorities do to prepare against extreme events that are becoming more and more frequent? Professor Castellarin suggested the need to rethink the entire system of protection at a systemic level. The event was forecasted correctly but unfortunately came just 2 weeks after an equivalently severe storm, at the beginning of May, that saturated river catchments and wetted levee systems protecting floodplains. Hydrologically speaking, the two joint events recorded, in just few days, about half of the amount of rainfall that falls in one year.

Watch the complete interview here: