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Outrage in Italy over 'shame' of Genoa flood chaos

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By James Mackenzie ROME Sun Oct 12, 2014 2:04pm EDT ROME (Reuters) - Italy rea
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  Outrage in Italy over 'shame' of Genoa flood chaos By James MackenzieROME Sun Oct 12, 2014 2:04pm EDTROME (Reuters) - Italy reacted with shock and outrage at the chronic bureaucratic and planningfailures laid bare after severe flooding hit the northwestern city of Genoa, killing one man andleaving the streets of the medieval port city buried in mud and debris. The mud of Genoa, shame of a country, read the front page headline of Italy's biggest dailynewspaper Corriere della Sera on Saturday after the flooding, which occurred less than three yearsafter torrential floods in the same city killed seven people in 2011. As heavy rain continued, civil protection authorities maintained a high alert until at least Mondaybut there were angry questions about how the city could be reduced to chaos, despite repeatedwarnings of a potential disaster.Italy's mountainous and unstable geography has always made the country vulnerable to naturaldisasters from floods to landslides and earthquakes. Genoa's own position, between the sea and aring of steep mountains, is particularly exposed to severe storms and flooding.But administrative failures under successive governments, from unregulated building to poorlyplanned infrastructure and bureaucratic inertia have exacerbated the problems. What is really alarming is how little has been done in three years to make Genoa secure fromanother flooding disaster, said Francesco Vincenzi, president of ANBI, a national associationrepresenting the organizations charged with overseeing flooding and water safety issues.Italy's deep economic crisis, which has seen public spending pared back to the bone in many areas,has made handling unexpected disasters more difficult but deeper systemic weaknesses have alsobeen highlighted. The problem of water security in Italy isn't mainly to do with resources, it's about political will andbureaucracy, Vincenzi said.FULL EMERGENCY Governor Claudio Burlando estimated the damage to public infrastructure at some 200 million euros($252.52 million) and as workers and volunteers began the cleanup, Franco Gabrielli, head of thecivil protection authority, warned that the problems would persist over the weekend. We are still in full emergency, he told a news conference. The forecasts for the next few hoursoffer no relief at all for tomorrow and Monday.   He admitted that authorities had failedto predict the huge volume of rainwhich fell in the space of a few hours.Parts of the city saw 700 mm of rainfall in 72 hours, not far short of theaverage rainfall of an entire year.But he criticized delays in reinforcingthe banks of the Bisagno river, thebiggest in Genoa, which burst itsswollen banks late on Thursday nightand said it was a scandal that 35million euros set aside for the work after the 2011 floods had not beenspent because of a legal dispute.The archbishop of Genoa, Angelo Bagnasco, called for timely and massive action by government toresolve the crisis and prevent similar disasters in future. Everyone knows what their responsibilities are, he said, his clothes spattered with mud after a tourof affected areas. It's absurd and shameful that bureaucracy of any kind should be blocking funds which areabsolutely necessary for resolving these problems, he said.(1 US dollar = 0.7920 euro)(Reporting by James Mackenzie; Editing by Stephen Powell)Link thisShare thisDigg thisEmailPrintReprints
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