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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Formula 1 cancels Grand Prix amid deadly floods in Italy

A rescuer searching for missing residents in Cesena, Italy.

By Andrew Das

Formula 1 on Wednesday canceled this weekend’s Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix after heavy rain and deadly flooding in northern Italy made it unsafe to proceed with the race at Imola.

Officials in Italy have warned residents in the region to seek higher ground this week after heavy downpours caused rain-swollen rivers to overflow their banks, flooded towns, and disrupted power services and cellphone networks. At least eight people had died as of midday Wednesday, and more than 5,000 have fled their homes.

Some of the worst-hit areas received almost 20 inches of rain in 36 hours, and nearly two dozen rivers have already burst their banks.

Given the scale of the destruction and the ongoing rescue efforts, Formula 1 said in a statement, it had no choice but to cancel. The decision was taken, it said, “because it is not possible to safely hold the event for our fans, the teams and our personnel and it is the right and responsible thing to do given the situation faced by the towns and cities in the region.

“It would not be right to put further pressure on the local authorities and emergency services at this difficult time.”

The race at Imola would have been the sixth of the current Formula 1 season, a globe-trotting circuit that was in Miami two weeks ago and will move on to Monaco by the end of the month. It is unclear if the canceled event can be rescheduled; Formula 1’s packed schedule has little flexibility given the time and trouble it takes to move it from country to country.

If the race at Imola is not rescheduled, Formula 1 will have 22 races this year instead of the record 23 it had planned.

It had become clear early this week that the race was in danger. Scenes of dramatic rescues of residents from flooded towns — via helicopters, small boats and even on the backs of emergency workers — have dominated Italian national news broadcasts over the past two days.

Schools in the region have canceled classes, train service was interrupted and roads and highways have been closed. Aerial photos have shown submerged fields, mud-covered streets and flooded towns.

Formula 1 had earlier ordered its teams to stay away from the Imola track, which runs next to the Santerno River, and residents who had not left the town had been warned to relocate to higher floors. Photographs from the track posted by journalists showed the paddock area was flooded.

The entire Emilia-Romagna region faces the threat of more rains, and more flooding, this week, and then months of cleanup and repairs.

“It is such a tragedy to see what has happened to Imola and Emilia-Romagna, the town and region that I grew up in,” said Stefano Domenicali, the chief executive of Formula 1. “My thoughts and prayers are with the victims of the flooding and the families and communities affected.”

“The decision that has been taken is the right one for everyone in the local communities and the F1 family,” he added, “as we need to ensure safety and not create extra burden for the authorities while they deal with this very awful situation.”

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