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GOVERNMENT

Letta cuts plane trips in bid to trim costs

Prime Minister Enrico Letta has decided to reduce the government's fleet of 10 planes by three in an effort to trim costs.

Letta cuts plane trips in bid to trim costs
The government is cutting an Airbus 319 and two Falcon 900s from its fleet. Photo: Bill Abbott/Flickr

The jets will instead be used to fight fires.

The cost-cutting measure was agreed with the head of the Italian Air Force and announced by Letta on Monday.

The three planes – an Airbus 319 and two Falcon 900s – have a market value of around €50 million, according to a statement from the prime minister's office.

By redirecting the planes from transporting politicians to directly helping Italian citizens, the move will boost cash-strapped front-line services. 

The decision to move part of the fleet to firefighting duties will be especially welcome in Sardinia, which has suffered extensive damage from wildfires in recent days.

Letta's decision follows on from legislation approved by his predecessor Mario Monti.

The planes were used for 5,952 hours in 2012, compared to 10,050 hours in 2010, when billionaire Silvio Berlusconi was premier.

Letta has also decided to reduce the government’s car service by 25 percent.

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WILDFIRES

‘Lucifer’ heatwave fuels Italy’s wildfires with temperatures up to 47C

A blistering heatwave is sweeping across Italy this week, fuelling fires in the south of the country, notably Sicily and Calabria, where a UNESCO-designated natural park is threatened.

‘Lucifer’ heatwave fuels Italy’s wildfires with temperatures up to 47C
Photo: Vigili del Fuoco (Italian fire brigade)

Temperatures hit 47 degrees Celsius (116 degrees Fahrenheit) in Sicily on Tuesday, near Syracuse, with meteorologists warning that Italy’s all-time record of 48.5 degrees, in Sicily in 1999, could be beaten on Wednesday.

Elsewhere in the south of Italy, the anticyclone dubbed ‘Lucifer’ by Italian media was forecast to send the mercury rising to 39-42 degrees on Wednesday before sweeping northwards, with weekend temperatures of up to 40 degrees in the central regions of Tuscany and Lazio, which includes Rome.

READ ALSO: Human action responsible for 70 percent of Italy’s wildfires, minister says

The Italian health ministry issued ‘red’ alerts for extreme heat in the areas in and around the cities of Rome, Bari, Rieti and Campobasso on Tuesday, and those were joined on Wednesday by Palermo, Perugia, Frosinone and Latina.

Italy’s Department for Civil Protection meanwhile sounded the alarm over the heightened risk of serious fires due to the weather conditions this week.

The island of Sicily and the region of Calabria in particular have already been battling fires throughout the summer – most caused by arson and fuelled by heat – with firefighters recording 300 interventions in the past 12 hours alone.

The Madonie mountain range, near the Sicilian capital Palermo, has for several days been besieged by flames that have destroyed crops, animals, homes and industrial buildings.

Sicily’s governor, Nello Musumeci, called for a state of emergency to be declared for the mountains, while Agriculture Minister Stefano Patuanelli visited on Wednesday to meet local mayors.

In Calabria, fires threatened the Aspromonte mountain range, designated a UNESCO area of international geological significance.

READ ALSO:

The deputy head of environmental NGO WWF Italy, Dante Caserta, called for more resources, such as air support, to quell the flames “or it will be too late, and we will lose a priceless heritage forever”.

Thousands of blazes have been recorded across the peninsula in recent weeks, with one in the west of the island of Sardinia ravaging almost 20,000 hectares during the worst fires seen in decades.

Civil Protection head Fabrizio Curcio on Sunday urged the public to “avoid incorrect behavior and promptly report fires”.

Although extreme weather events have always existed and Italy is no stranger to intense heat, experts say the climate crisis is making heatwaves more frequent and more dangerous.

This year’s fire season has been significantly more destructive than the previous average, EU data shows

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