Italy's Meloni vows support for flood-hit Emilia-Romagna

Aftermath of deadly floods in northern Italy

ROME (Reuters) -Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni pledged to support the recovery of flood-hit areas of northern Italy on Sunday after returning early from the G7 summit in Japan to see the damage first hand.

Meloni toured towns in the Emilia-Romagna region, where the floods have killed 14 people and caused damage estimated at billions of euros, after stopping off on her way back from the summit in Asia.

"It has been a tragedy but we can always recover strongly from crises," Meloni told reporters in the city of Ravenna, one of the areas badly affected. She said it had been a moving experience to meet those caught up in the deluge.

The prime minister, who leads a right-wing government, said the damage was huge but it was hard to put a figure on the financial impact.

"We will find the resources needed," she added, saying Italy might call upon the European Union's Solidarity Fund for natural disasters.

Fellow leaders at the Group of Seven (G7) summit in the Japanese city of Hiroshima had also offered various forms of support, she added.

Meloni left the summit in Hiroshima a day earlier than scheduled, saying her conscience would not allow her to stay away longer.

The rain had stopped on Sunday and rescue teams and local volunteers were trying to pump out buildings and sweep away mud caking the streets before it could set hard under the sun.

The Italian government will hold a cabinet meeting on Tuesday to decide on measures to respond to the emergency. Having witnessed some of the damage, Meloni said she would spend Monday reviewing plans to support recovery efforts.

Around 36,000 people had been forced to leave their homes, and many of those who remained in flooded areas were left without electricity. Some 10,000 of those had been able to go home by Sunday evening.

Agriculture has been hit hard in an area which grows fruit such as peaches, kiwis and apricots, as well as corn and grain.

(Writing by Keith WeirEditing by Alexandra Hudson)