HEATWAVE: Italy puts 17 cities on red warning over holiday weekend

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HEATWAVE: Italy puts 17 cities on red warning over holiday weekend
A woman cools off in the Barcaccia fountain at the Spanish Steps square in Rome on August 11, 2021 as a sharp rise in temperatures is expected in the coming days with the intensification of the African anticyclone. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)

From Bologna to Palermo, Italy has issued a weather warning for cities across the country as a relentless heatwave continues to drive temperatures to 40 degrees C and beyond.


Fifteen cities are at risk of extreme heat on Friday, according to the Ministry of Health's latest warning: Bari, Bologna, Bolzano, Brescia, Cagliari, Campobasso, Florence, Frosinone, Latina, Palermo, Perugia, Rieti, Rome, Trieste and Viterbo.

Naples and Ancona have also been placed at Level 3 from Saturday – the government's maximum risk rating for dangerous heat.


Photo by Giovanni ISOLINO / AFP

While Cagliari in Sardinia will pass down to Level 1 from tomorrow, red warnings will remain in place for every other city on the list until at least Sunday, Italy’s Ferragosto public holiday.

A Level 3 warning means "emergency conditions ... with possible negative effects on the health of active and healthy people", according to the Health Ministry. 


In the midst of an anticyclone nicknamed "Lucifer", several parts of Italy are reporting temperatures above the seasonal average, compounded in some cases by humidity.

Florence is forecasting highs of 38 degrees C on Friday, rising to 39 on Saturday and 40 on Sunday, while temperatures are set to hover in the high 30s in Rome and Bologna.

The heat in Sicily is threatening to break European records, with a blistering 48.8 degrees C reported near Syracuse on Wednesday. If Italy's national weather service confirms the measurement, it will be the highest temperature ever recorded in Europe. 


Sicily in particular, but also the whole of central and southern Italy and part of northern Italy, is affected by a current of hot air from the Sahara that has caused temperatures to soar.

The heatwave has left the hottest regions at heightened risk of wildfires, especially Sicily and Calabria.

At least four people have died in fires that have swept the peninsula in recent weeks, including three in the Reggio Calabria area who died while trying to save livestock and olive groves.

Italian firefighters continue to carry out hundreds of missions each day as they battle to contain a wildfire season even more destructive than previous years.

Although Italy is no stranger to intense heat, experts say global warming is making heatwaves more frequent and more dangerous.

The Mediterranean has been singled out as a "climate change hotspot", with increasing temperatures and aridity lengthening fire seasons and doubling the areas potentially burnt, according to a draft UN assessment seen by AFP.


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