The Mayor of Florence, Dario Nardella, dedicated the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the flood to those in Central Italy, hit by the recent earthquake, and he did so by thanking the Civil Protection, “the successors to our Mud Angels,” and its current chief, Francesco Curcio.
He also wanted to commemorate how Florence “did not give in,” due especially to the strength of then-mayor Piero Bargellini. Nardella remembered several people that helped spread word of the flood throughout the world, such as Ted Kennedy and Richard Burton, but also “the father of that child who died in a landslide in October 1966 at a school in Wales, and who loaded up his car with toys and sweets and brought them to the children of Florence.”
“You aren’t alone, just as we were not either,” he reaffirmed to the victims of the recent earthquake in Central Italy. “Injured, despondent, but not defeated. The Florentines immediately got to work, parishes and political parties organized committees without even waiting for the authorities in Rome to step forward,” Mayor Nardella said, not forgetting to also thank the “Mud Angels.”
Being an administrator, though, Nardella couldn’t fail to mention during his address in the Salone dei 500 the important work that begins with a comparison and international dialogue between other countries and other cities around the world, because no one is safe from natural disasters and they force us to consider global solutions, from fighting to climate change, prevention, information, and the involvement of the people.
“It was calculated that a new flood as severe as the one in 1966 would cost nearly six billion euro in damages. After 50 years, we don’t want history to repeat itself,” the mayor continued. “Floods are not sudden like earthquakes, and especially not if they can be prevented and the effects mitigated with appropriate hydraulic measures. The true cure is prevention. Unfortunately, management of the hydraulic and hydrogeological instability and their effects were always neglected. Memory is too weak, perhaps, or the costs needed were too high. Together with sluggish bureaucracy unworthy of a civil country, these inefficiencies have generated years and years of delays and postponements.”
Fortunately, change is underway. With the release of 106 billion euro to protect the city and Tuscan territory from flood risks and other hydrogeological risks, prompt, realistic action is being taken. Vice-president of the Region of Tuscany, Monica Barni, explained that 4 basins to help with overflowing were being constructed around Figline, and the dam in Levane is currently being upgraded.
“The 1966 flood in Florence represents an exceptional and unexpected reminder of the river’s scale, and brings to light all the fragility of a territory deeply marked by the work of man and affected by extensive urbanization.” These are the words of the President of the Republic, Sergio Mattarella, who participated in the 50th anniversary ceremony. The Florence flood was “the most disastrous instance of flooding, provoked by incessant rainfall that came down on a large part of the country in those days, causing many victims and incalculable damage to North-East and Central Italy.” The president also mentioned record rainfall in Venice, at 194 centimeters, as well as the hundreds of other affected towns. Of the areas most impacted by these adverse weather conditions in the Fall of 1966, Tuscany and Florence were hit the hardest, with the Arno and Ombrone river floods leading to 47 deaths, hundreds of injured, and 46,000 people left homeless. For this, Florence became the “painful symbol of the flood,” not least because of the loss of or severe damage to a significant part of the artistic and cultural heritage of Florence, a city long considered the “cradle of civilization,” the president concluded.