Norwich couple tell of their Italian flood nightmare

A Norwich couple have been caught up in the devastating floods in the north of Italy.

Torrential storms have swept across western Europe and this week Fiona and John Laufs, from Earlham, were subject to a horrendous ordeal as water flowed through their hotel, almost drowning them and washing their Audi A6 down to the beach.

The couple were holidaying in Monterosso, Liguiria, the area known as the Italian Riviera. And Mrs Laufs says the picturesque region has been 'ruined' due to the flooding.

Speaking from the safety of nearby Albenga after the British Embassy laid on a boat to retrieve those stranded, Mrs Laufs says she is lucky to be alive: 'We went into shock for two days, now we are just very aware of how lucky we've been.'

No sooner had the couple checked in to their hotel on Monday, expecting sunshine, than they were told to expect rain. When it came it poured continuously, until they were sitting downstairs in the hotel on Tuesday playing cards and noticed the water on the road was 6-7 inches deep.

'Water came in under the door,' said Mrs Laufs, 'the hotel owner panicked, and started trying to put cushions under the door.

'My husband went outside to hold the door, but suddenly the water rose about a metre, and started coming through the windows.

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'He was trapped as cars were sweeping down the road just two feet away from him, his legs are badly bruised as branches and debris hit them. I was screaming at him to let himself be carried down the road and get in a window. The road itself cracked and whole slabs of tarmac were swept away.'

The couple saw their car get swept away and found it written off under a tree, with another car directly on top of it.

The water then burst through the door of the hotel, taking Mr Laufs with it and throwing Mrs Laufs and other guests down a corridor.

'It swept us right through to the back of the hotel,' said Mrs Laufs. 'The basement filled up to ground level, all our luggage was in there.'

Mrs Laufs, 47, says she's amazed that neither she nor her husband were more seriously injured.

'We were so lucky, it came so quickly, there was no chance to think. One of the emergency services people was trying to unblock the drain outside to ease the water flow and he got swept away, he died. 'There was an old man on the street who didn't want to leave his old dog, so he stayed and they both died.'

The couple are due to fly out on Saturday. The area has been declared a disaster zone and the military have moved in.

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