ROME, May 23 (Xinhua) -- Italy's Council of Ministers on Tuesday approved a wide-ranging emergency aid package to help victims of severe floods in the Emilia-Romagna region.
The package, passed a week after unprecedented rainfall in the region, is worth more than 2 billion euros (2.2 billion U.S. dollars). The Council of Ministers said it was aimed at providing "relief and assistance to the populations and companies affected by the flood, and to proceed rapidly to overcome the emergency phase."
The package is among the largest-ever in response to a national disaster in Italy.
The package includes a temporary suspension of payments for taxes, utilities, and government loans; a payment of up to 3,000 euros for self-employed people who cannot work due to the flooding; and tens of millions of euros in subsidies and grants for businesses, infrastructure reconstruction, and health and safety inspections for severely-hit areas.
Emilia-Romagna, which is home to the cities of Bologna, Parma and Modena, began experiencing heavy rainfall on May 1. Most of the worst damage happened on May 16 and 17, when the region received six months worth of precipitation within a 36-hour period.
The flooding led to at least 14 deaths and left several thousand homeless. It is also estimated to have caused widespread damage to the region's infrastructure, industry, and agri-food sector.
On Tuesday, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni called the aid package "the first important response to the territory affected," adding that more aid may come later.
"We need to simplify the rules for reconstruction ... to restart the region," Stefano Bonaccini, president of the Emilia-Romagna region, said at a joint press conference with Meloni. "There are billions of euros in damage. There have been 300 active landslides. Entire forests have come down. There are problems with the rivers ... roads and infrastructure." (1 euro = 1.08 U.S. dollar)