Fierce storms that have killed 18 people in Italy this week also razed thousands of hectares of forest in the country's devastated north, officials said today.
Trees covering the mountainsides in the Dolomites range were reduced to matchsticks, flattened by winds that tore through the Veneto region Thursday as storms killed five people in northern Italy.
“It's like after an earthquake,” Veneto governor Luca Zaia said. “Thousands of hectares of forest were razed to the ground, as if by a giant electric saw.”
A photo taken from a fire helicopter showing flattened forests in the Dolomites. Photo: Vigili del Fuoco
In addition, 160,000 people in the region were left without electricity, Zaia said, adding that parts of the Dolomites were “reduced to looking like the surface of the moon.”
“We've been brought to our knees,” he said.
On Thursday, storms in northern Italy killed two pensioners aged 74 and 73 when a tree fell on their car in the Aosta Valley. Another person fell into a river in the Brescia region and was dragged under by the current.
In the Alto Adige region, an 81-year old died after falling off the damaged roof of his Alpine cottage, while a 53-year old whose car was hit by a falling tree during bad weather on Monday died from the injuries.
These fatalities brought the total number of people killed during this week’s violent storms to 18.
Italy's civil protection agency described the weather lashing Italy this week as “one of the most complex meteorological situations of the past 50 to 60 years”.
Severe flooding at St Mark's Square in Venice on Monday. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP
Bad weather continues in many parts of the country, with rain and thunderstorms today in parts of Lazio, Campania, Emilia-Romagna, Veneto and elsewhere.
Floods in Sicily have closed many roads and mayors have ordered schools, public parks, and underpasses shut.
Meteorologists predict heavy rain and storms throughout Italy this weekend.
Italian regions have been counting the costs of the storms over the past few days, particularly the six northern regions placed under red alert for several days.
Veneto and Liguria were among the regions worst affected, though bad weather struck every part of the country earlier this week.
The picturesque fishing village of Portofino near Genoa, a famed holiday resort on the Italian riviera, was only reachable by sea after the main road collapsed and an emergency path opened to let residents out was deemed too dangerous.
“It won't be easy or quick but we count on returning Portofino next summer to the millions of tourists who come to visit it,” regional governor Giovanni Toti said.
The Genoa region alone had suffered tens of millions of euros worth of damage — a price tag that could rise to hundreds of millions in the long term, he added.
Several towns in the province of Belluno were cut off after a landslide damaged a mountain road and repair efforts were hampered by the insistent heavy rains.
Venice was inundated by historic high water levels on Monday, leading to the evacuation of tourists from the centre.