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Italy sends in the army to assist Italians trapped by snow

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Italy sends in the army to assist Italians trapped by snow
Heavy snow has seen schools closed and thousands left without electricity. Photo: AFP
09:01 CET+01:00
UPDATED: Heavy snowfall and unusually harsh weather have left hundreds of thousands of homes without electricity, schools closed, and roads unusable.

Recent days have seen up to a metre of snow in southern areas, strong winds in the north and coastal areas, and temperatures well below the average for the season in most of the country, reaching lows of below -30C in some northern mountain towns.

The wintery conditions are expected to last for at least another week, due to the arrival of a polar air mass in the country, weather experts at Meteo.it explained.

On Tuesday evening, Italy's Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti confirmed that the army had deployed soldiers to Abruzzo, which is suffering the brunt of the wintery spell with road closures, power blackouts and some smaller villages isolated.

Over a quarter of the local population - 300,000 people - are without electricity, according to the region's councillor for Civil Protection. A further 12,000 people in the Marche region also suffered power blackouts, while 2,000 in the towns of Chieti and Pescara had no running water.

Fire services are also assisting in the central Italian regions, rescuing trapped farm animals and helping to clear roads, as well as continuing to work on recovery in the areas hit by earthquakes last year.

Since the weekend, at least three people have been reported dead from weather-related conditions. A 67-year-old man was reported dead from hypothermia in Teramo, Abruzzo, after falling from a boat into icy water, and a 53-year-old homeless person was found dead by police due to exposure in Agrigento, Sicily. On Wednesday morning, a third victim was found dead in his car in Brindisi.

In Salerno, Campania in southern Italy, the small mountain village of Pruno had been isolated by the snow for several days without access to food or medical supplies. Soldiers and firefighters conducted relief operations on Monday, bringing medicine and food supplies for the next few days.


Photo: AFP

Heavy snowfall in the areas affected by the 2016 earthquakes has left already fragile buildings struggling under the added weight, with further damage to the towns' historic centres feared.

Residents have raised concerns for their farm animals in damaged barns and stables while temperatures remained at around 0C in most of the region on Tuesday, with both Amatrice and Arquata del Tronto at -1C.

"We're back on our knees: we have a meter of snow, isolated hamlets, no light, and the Via Salaria [the main road from Rome to the region] is blocked. We need help," said Sante Stangoni, mayor of Acquasanta Terme in the Marche region.

Over the weekend, residents of the affected areas held demonstrations over the lack of government assistance, with one protester telling The Local: "The rubble is still there; nothing has been moved, and then there's the aggravating factor of the snow and frost."

READ MORE: 'Bureacracy kills more than earthquakes', central Italy residents protest

Five months after the earthquake, Italy residents say 'nothing has changed'
Photo: Mario Laporta/AFP

There has also been huge disruption to travel, with the A14 reopening at 9:30am on Wednesday morning after two days' closure due to snowfall. Other partial road closures remain in place in Sicily, Tuscany and Emilia Romagna and boat travel to some of the country's islands is severely disrupted, with Capraia, and the islands of Elba and Giglio all isolated due to agitated seas.

School closures continue across the country, including in the mountainous parts of the Umbria and Marche regions, Prato in Tuscany, and northern Sardinia. 

IN PICTURES: Italy transforms into a winter wonderland with heavy snowfall

The wintery spell is expected to continue until next Thursday at the very earliest, the weather boffins at Meteo.it predict, with continued cold weather across the country and more snow in the centre-south and extremely strong winds of over 100km/h in Trieste and Tuscany.

Wednesday will likely bring widespread cloud and rain, with snow in Emilia Romagna, Marche and northern Abruzzo at 100-300m altitudes, while elsewhere snowfall will be constrained to areas above 400m. Temperatures are expected to remain low before seeing slight increases on Thursday and Friday.

But the weekend should finally bring some moderate relief, with slight improvement in conditions expected across the country but especially in the central-south.

 

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