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Italian government approves $2.2 billion aid package for flood victims

An aid package for Italian flood victims has been approved by the country's government. The government approved a package worth more than $2.2 billion.

The Italian government on Tuesday approved more than $2.2 billion in aid for the flood-stricken region of Emilia-Romagna in the north, including for farmers and business owners in one of the country's most productive regions.

The government is envisioning raising by $1.1 the price of admission tickets to state museums, Premier Giorgia Meloni said. The money would be earmarked to help pay for repairs to damaged cultural institutions.

Also being considered is a special lotto game to raise funds.

Meloni told reporters that the assistance approved at a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday includes the suspension of tax payments as well as utility bills over the coming months. Mortgage payments in areas considered disaster zones will also be suspended.

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"In the situation which Italy finds itself, finding 2 billion euros in a few days isn't an easy thing,'' Meloni said.

She cited many of the categories receiving aid, including education, where laptops must be purchased for students who can't reach schools due to the flooding.

For workers temporarily left jobless because farms and businesses were destroyed or left inaccessible, some 580 million euros were allocated.

The flooding last week claimed at least 14 lives. Twenty-one rivers overran their banks and at least 300 landslides were triggered by a heavy concentration of rainfall, which couldn’t be absorbed by terrain that had been parched by lack of rain for weeks.

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Emilia-Romagna Gov. Stefano Bonaccini, who flanked Meloni at the news conference, expressed thanks for the swift approval of aid, but noted that the region "has wounds and will have them for a while."

"There are people who lost everything, or who lost almost everything,'' Bonaccini said.

"There are those with businesses which can't operate," in large part because some 600 roads were blocked or destroyed by landslides or flooding, the governor said. He estimated the cost of road damage alone at 1 billion euros.

Other sectors, like the important agricultural sector of the region's economy, known for its production of fruit, honey, wheat, pork and poultry are still calculating losses. Also among the areas badly damaged were many beach resorts along the Adriatic Sea, a stretch of coast very popular with tourists from Italy and northern Europe.

The aid package includes some 700 million euros for companies from the region whose exports were devastated. Emilia-Romagna is the leading region in Italy in terms of export-value per capita, as Bonaccini pointed out.

To help coordinate the efforts, Italy's recently appointed drought commission was tasked on Tuesday with also managing drainage projects, to help rid the area of floodwaters.

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