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State of emergency after Sardinian cyclone claims 16 lives

Govt allocates 20 million to aftermath of 'national tragedy'

19 November, 12:26
State of emergency after Sardinian cyclone claims 16 lives (ANSA) - Rome, November 19 - Premier Enrico Letta's government declared a state of emergency in Sardinia on Tuesday after a cyclone claimed 16 lives on the Italian island in what he described as a "national tragedy".

Franco Gabrielli, the head of Italy's Civil Protection Department, said 13 of the victims were from the province of Olbia, two were from the province of Nuoro and one was from near Oristano.

He added that two people in the province of Nuoro were missing after Cyclone Cleopatra hit the island on Monday.

Thousands of people were forced to take shelter in public structures such as gyms after being evacuated from their homes. "We decided to hold a cabinet meeting at once to declare a state of emergency," Letta said. "This enables us to immediately be able to use rules for more rapid interventions and set aside an initial sum for the very first emergencies that emerged during the night".

Letta said after the cabinet meeting that the government had allocated 20 million euros to tackle the immediate emergency, stressing that this did not include funds that would be set aside subsequently for reconstruction.

"We express our empathy and solidarity to the families and to the people hit," Letta said. "At the moment the priority is saving lives and helping the people evacuated from their homes. "Unfortunately there are lots of people in this situation and the death toll is dramatic". Torrential rain flooded streets, sweeping cars away, caused rivers to burst their banks and bridges to collapse. The victims included a Brazilian family of four - the mother, father and two teenage children - living in a ground floor flat in Arzachena, near Olbia. They drowned after a flash flood hit their home.

Another victim was a police officer in a car that plummeted from a collapsing bridge as he was trying to take an injured person to receive medical assistance. The rescue operations have been hampered by the fact that many roads cannot be used because of the heavy rain, which let up early on Tuesday but is expected to pour down again later in the day. Schools in the affected areas were closed. President Giorgio Napolitano said in a statement that he was following the developments related to the "tragic flood in Sardinia". The head of State expressed "solidarity to the communities" affected and said he was "pained" by the disaster.

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