June 17, 2024

Italy struggles with wildfires, heat and blizzards


Italy is facing multiple types of extreme weather at the same time, with the southern parts of the country under pressure from heat, and the north hit by deadly storms.

On Tuesday alone, extreme weather killed at least three people, according to Italian authorities.

A teenager and a woman were killed by falling trees as severe storms hit northern Italy early Tuesday morning.

Italy’s fire brigade said it responded to 400 emergency calls about fallen trees, roof damage, flooding and broken windows after storms caused widespread damage in the area.

In the last few days, the north of Italy has been hit by severe weather, which also caused tornadoes and strong winds. Last week, 100 people were injured after hailstorms the size of tennis balls in the Veneto region.

As storms batter the north, the south is sweltering under an extreme heat wave.

In some parts of Sicily, the temperature reached 47.4 Celsius (117.3 Fahrenheit) on Monday, close to the European temperature record of 48.8 degrees Celsius, set in 2021.

The heat is prickling the landscape for fires, which have already claimed at least one life.

On Tuesday, an 88-year-old woman died outside Palermo, Sicily, a government spokesman told CNN. ​​​​The woman, who had serious health problems, died because doctors were unable to reach her due to the wildfires, CNN affiliate SkyTG24 reported.

More than 40 fires broke out in Sicily on Monday night, including one at the Bellolampo landfill producing poisonous fumes, according to the Italian fire brigade.

More than 1,500 people were evacuated from the affected region and several houses were damaged.

Palermo’s Falcone Borsellino airport was closed for several hours on Tuesday due to the fires, but reopened later this morning and flights from major airlines were allowed to land and take off with significant delays.

A wildfire burns near Sicily's Falcone-Borsellino airport in Palermo, Italy, July 25, 2023. .

Most of the budget airlines were diverted to Trapani airport, according to the Palermo airport authority.

Sicily’s other major airport in Catania has limited service after a fire in one of its terminals last week, according to the Catania airport authority. Catania is also affected by cuts in power and water supply due to the extreme heat, according to Reuters.

The Italian minister for civil protection and maritime policy, Nello Musumeci, said on Tuesday that Italy is suffering from very difficult times.

“We are living through one of the most complicated days in decades: storms, tornadoes, huge hail in the North; broken heat and destructive fires in the South Central. As we mourn the three victims in these twenty-four hours, I feel that I must thank the firefighters, the civil defense managers and the volunteers, the police forces, the forestry workers and all those mobilized in the most difficult trenches,” said Musumeci in his post on Twitter.

As the human-caused climate crisis deepens, it is clear to scientists that extreme events such as heat waves and storms will only become more frequent and more intense. A study published on Tuesday found that a heat wave in southern Europe would be “virtually impossible” without climate change.

Italy, located in the hot spot of Mediterranean climate change and surrounded by warming seas, is extremely vulnerable.

“The climate change that is affecting our nation causes us all a change of pace,” said Musumeci.

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