A thousand landslides along the Emilian Apennines, but without bulldozers to dig. ‘No one tells us how to intervene. Here nothing will be as before

In the official general framework given by the Region, in Emilia-Romagna they are at least a thousand active landslidesof which 305 significant, which involved 54 Municipalities. Behind the numbers are the images of hundreds of roads split or even collapsed at the bottom of the slopes, with entire countries that have been isolated for days with many displaced persons. The situation is particularly difficult on the Apennines, where those stuck at home have to wait for air force helicopters carrying food and medicine. Hectares of woods and fields are no longer there, companies and farms are unreachable. Sui Bologna mountains but not only the weight of the emergency caused by the climate crisis and landslides is all on the shoulders of the mayors and of the inhabitants who help other residents as they can, in small towns where most of the population is elderly and the tools available are not sufficient. “We are doing everything by ourselves and we feel abandoned,” he says Mauro Ghini, mayor of Borgo Tossignanoa Bolognese municipality that coordinates all the rescue operations of several other Emilian towns.

There is a lack of excavators and experts – The Municipality of Borgo Tossignano was affected by the flooding of the nearby Santerno river and by various landslides. In addition to having to manage his own emergency, the entire assistance network branches off from his municipality to the other three municipalities in the valley. “We rolled up our sleeves because from the Region there was never a real answer”, continues Ghini. The most critical conditions are a Castel del Rio where about sixty families have lived isolated since the landslides of recent days made all the hamlets of the municipality inaccessible. Many roads have become slabs of asphalt bent over on themselves. In other places the roadways have disappeared into the chasms. Of the country’s 1,200 inhabitants, one in ten is currently displaced. “There is a whole mountain to dig, how can we do it only with arms and shovels?” asks the deputy mayor David Righini, “we need excavators, skilled workers and geologists to tell us where and how to move. Here we are many little Davids against a too big Goliath”.

“Aid for 14 hours a day, unsustainable” – There are forty landslides affecting Castel del Rio. The first findings were made by a team of volunteers formed by the municipal technician Pierangelo Tossani and some inhabitants. In some cases they had to climb the cracks tens of meters wide to be able to take pictures from above and estimate a summary extent of the collapse. The Carabinieri of the local station and the other municipal employees help them. “At this rate, people will remain isolated for weeks,” concludes Tossani. Those who have been stuck at home don’t know when they will be able to see their relatives again or go back to work. Some large companies in the area are trying to make a difference by providing their own bulldozers and trucks. But the risk is that, without numbers and skills, once good will and energy have run out, operations will come to a complete halt. “There are volunteers who help fourteen hours a day – he says Marcella Pirazzoli, originally from Castel del Rio – the situation is unsustainable. The only strengths we have are our own as we see the mountain collapsing before our eyes”.

The emergency does not end after landslides – The disproportion between the extent of landslides and the resources available increases if you try to think about the post-emergency, as explained by the mayor of Castel del Rio Alberto Baldazzi: “Because the morphology of the territory has changed. It’s not just about rebuilding. We will need millions of euros and qualified people to stay with us for the next few years. Resources that will have to come from the Region – concludes Baldazzi – because in our coffers we have only a few thousand euros”. Together with the roads in Castel del Rio, dozens of hectares of centuries-old chestnut trees have collapsed, a tree on which most of the agricultural economy of this part of the territory depends. “We have lost at least half of them, trees that have been there for three hundred years, irreplaceable – he comments Alessandro Franceschelli, an agricultural and construction company entrepreneur – and those who are left standing are unreachable”. Another widespread concern among local administrators is that the reconstruction can be concentrated above all on the main sections between the capital, hamlets and provincial roads, leaving out the streets considered minor but which instead remain important for the villages. “Access to farmhouses, fields and farms, or in places where few people live,” he explains Gabriel Meluzzimayor of Fontanelice, another town in the Santerno valley where there are dozens of landslides and eighty people evacuated including the mayor himself. “We have stalls full of cows that we can’t reach. For now we transport the hay bales with helicopters so as not to let the animals die, but we can’t go on like this. We throw the milk away because the trucks can’t pick it up. Let’s hope we can think of some solution – concludes Meluzzi – but life here it will never go back to the way it was before”.

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2023-05-23 06:19:26

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