UPDATE - 5 dead as Italy hit by extreme weather

UPDATE - 5 dead as Italy hit by extreme weather

Exceptional weather batters nation, with wildfires spreading in south, violent storms ravaging northern cities


By Giada Zampano

ROME (AA) - Italy was split in two Tuesday between record heat and wildfires in the southern regions and violent storms in the north, as extreme weather killed at least five people and wounded several, authorities reported.

Sixteen cities were put on red alert because of extraordinarily high temperatures, as an exceptional heat wave continued, followed by intense phenomena like thunderstorms and tornadoes.

A wildfire forced Sicily’s capital, Palermo, to shut down its airport for hours, before reopening early Tuesday, as firefighters tried to get flames under control in a nearby area, where road and rail traffic was also disrupted.

An 88-year-old woman died after an ambulance could not reach her home due to the blaze, authorities reported.

Two carbonized bodies, still unidentified, were found in a small house in the Cinisi area, close to the Palermo airport. Rescuers said the two were in their 70s and were probably killed by the flames.

The new incidents added to recent problems in Sicily’s main Catania airport, causing wide delays and cancellations at the peak of an already packed tourist season.

The airport in Catania was closed last week due to a fire in a terminal building and has just recently reopened for a few flights.

In addition, Palermo and Catania both suffered power and water supply cuts, which local officials blamed partially on the exceptional heat.

In some parts of eastern Sicily, temperatures rose to 47.6C (117.7F) on Monday, close to a European high of 48.8C (119.8F) recorded by the island two years ago.

A 98-year-old man in the other southern region of Calabria died as the flames from a wildfire reached his home.

- Hardest day

In the North, an overnight storm with torrential rains hit Italy's financial capital Milan, tearing off roofs, uprooting hundreds of trees, and blocking roads. Transport authorities reported serious damage to the city’s electricity network.

On Tuesday, a 16-year-old girl at a scout camp was killed near the northern city of Brescia when a tree fell on her tent, according to rescuers.

Italy is one of the European countries most affected by climate change-related extreme weather and suffered deadly floods in the northern Emilia Romagna region in May.

The far-right government led by Premier Giorgia Meloni said it was readying emergency measures to help regions hit by the extreme weather, as the northern region of Lombardy, which includes Milan, already estimated damages of more than €100 million ($110 million).

Several regions have asked the government to declare a state of emergency.

Interior Ministry Matteo Piantedosi said officials are closely monitoring the situation in the northern and the southern regions and added that further rescue forces have been deployed, in addition to those already on the ground.

"This is one of the hardest days in Italy's history for 10 years,” Minister for Civil Protection, Nello Musumeci, wrote on Facebook. “Climate change has hit our nation and demands that we all change our ways. There are no excuses."

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