HEATWAVE: Italy issues wildfire warnings as ‘hottest week’ arrives

HEATWAVE: Italy issues wildfire warnings as ‘hottest week’ arrives
Photo: Vigili del Fuoco (Italian fire brigade)
Italy's civil protection service has issued health and wildfire alerts for the coming days, as another intense wave of hot air from the south is expected to bring some of the highest temperatures on record.

As Italy’s Ferragosto holiday week begins, the weather is expected to be even hotter than usual at this time of year with temperatures set to hit 45 degrees in some southern regions.

From Monday, another African anticyclone will arrive in southern and central parts of the country triggering the fourth intense heatwave of the summer, according to forecasters at Icona Meteo.

This week could see some of the highest temperatures ever recorded, and is expected to be “the most relevant this summer in terms of duration, geographic extent, and expected maximum temperature peaks,” forecasters write.

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Italian news agency Ansa describes the heatwave as “an extreme event with few precedents, caused by a sub-tropical high pressure field that will hit the Mediterranean and which will peak in the days between Tuesday and Thursday.”

The hot spell is expected to last until August 15th, with temperatures set to reach 45 degrees in Sicily and inland southern regions, and 36-37 degrees in Milan and the Po Valley in the north.

The Italian health ministry on Monday issued a ‘red alert’ for heat in the areas in and around the cities of Rome, Bari, Rieti and Campobasso on Tuesday.

The number of cities on red alert will rise to eight on Wednesday as those are joined by Palermo, Perugia, Frosinone and Latina.

A further 13 cities including Milan, Florence and Bologna will have a lower-level ‘amber’ alert in place by Wednesday.

An amber alert means high temperatures and weather conditions “may have adverse effects on the health of the population, particularly in susceptible population subgroups,” states the Health Ministry.

Meanwhile a red alert signals “high-risk conditions that persist for three or more consecutive days”.

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

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.

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

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As coronavirus cases are also rising at the moment in Italy, the health ministry advises people to “stay at home” as much as possible on hot days, “both to protect yourself from the heat and to limit the risk of infection”.

Italian authorities have called on people to check on the elderly and vulnerable during spells of particularly hot weather.

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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