Firefighters airlift two-year-old girl to safety as flood rescues continues in northern Italy

Watch the moment firefighters airlifted a toddler from a building surrounded by floodwaters in Villafranca, Italy

A two-year-old girl is among the latest residents to be rescued in northern Italy after severe flooding left at least 13 people dead.

Footage, released by the Italian fire brigade, showed firefighters airlifting the toddler, who the service later confirmed was ill, from a building which was surrounded by floodwaters in the Emilia-Romagna region.

Heavy rains in the past week have caused rivers to burst their banks, leading to dozens of cities and towns being affected by floods and landslides.

Consequently, thousands have been forced to flee their homes, with emergency services continuing their work to reach remote communities that have been cut off from electricity and heating.

People use an inflatable pool to carry bags and personal belongings down a flooded road in Lugo. Credit: AP

Scientists have attributed the floods to climate change, saying that two years worth of droughts in northern Italy had left its soil in a state where it was unable to absorb rainfall.

Antonello Pasini, a climate scientist at Italy's National Research Council, said a trend of increased amounts of intense rainfall over fewer days in the year has now established itself in the region.

Melting snow from the Alps, Dolomites and Apennines normally provides a steady runoff of water through spring and summer that fills Italy's lakes, irrigates the agricultural heartland and keeps the Po and other key rivers and tributaries flowing.

But without that normal snowfall in the mountains, the region's plains have gone dry while its riverbeds, lakes and reservoirs have receded.

Emergency services personnel have conducted rescues via a number of ways, including helicopter and dinghy

Italy's Civil Protection Minister, Nello Musumeci, said the new normal of extreme weather events in the Mediterranean requires Italians to adapt and Italy to rethink its flood protections nationwide.

"We can't just pretend that nothing is happening," he said

"Everything must change: the programming in hydraulic infrastructures must change, the engineering approach must change."

In 2021, the United Nations' (UN) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change scientific panel said it was "established fact" that humans' greenhouse gas emissions had made for more frequent and intense weather extremes.

Evacuees from the floods rest in a gymnasium in Bologna. Credit: AP

The panel called heat waves the most obvious, but said heavy precipitation events had also likely increased over most of the world.

Meanwhile, pressure is continuing to mount on Italy's Cabinet to declare a state of emergency in the Emilia-Romagna region.

However, a decision is not expected to be announced until next week, following the return of Italian prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, from the G7 summit in Japan.

The floods have also led to the cancellation of this weekend's Formula One (F1) Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, in Imola.

Bosses of the motorsport said the decision to not go ahead with the sixth round of the season came as it could not safely hold the event.

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