HEATWAVE: 16 Italian cities on alert with peaks of 43C

Italy's health authorities have issued red or amber alerts for 16 cities on Tuesday as the nation braces for one of the hottest, longest June heatwaves on record.

HEATWAVE: 16 Italian cities on alert with peaks of 43C
A tourist cools off at the Piazza del Popolo fountain in central Rome as Italy is in the grip of another heatwave. (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP)

Tuesday marks the longest day of the year, known as the summer solstice, and with it, Italy’s third and hottest heatwave this year has arrived.

As of June 21st, Italy’s health authorities have put 16 cities on red or amber alert as meteorologists warn of “unusually” high temperatures for this time of year.

Cities on the highest red alert over the coming days include Turin, Bolzano and Bologna, according to the latest official forecasts.

READ ALSO: Europe swelters under record-breaking heatwave

Red warnings indicate emergency conditions with possible negative effects on everyone’s health, while amber warns the heat may pose a health risk, particularly to the elderly, children and those with chronic illnesses.

The heat comes as Italy’s third and harshest heatwave of this year sweeps in from northern Africa, pushing temperatures up to 43C-44C in some areas, reports weather site

High temperatures are expected to last for the next ten days, with peaks of 43C in Puglia, 37-38C in Bologna and Ferrara in Emilia Romagna, 41-42C in Caltanissetta in Sicily and Oristano in Sardinia, 38C in Florence and 40C in Cosenza, Calabria.

These mark potential new record temperatures for the month of June, last broken in the sweltering summer of 2003.

Bologna’s high that year was 34C, as was the case for Milan and several cities in Veneto and Emilia Romagna, according to news agency Ansa.

Night-time temperatures are expected to stay high, not falling below 20C for many Italian cities.

READ ALSO: From Venice to Mont Blanc, how is the climate crisis affecting Italy?

“Heatwaves occur when there are very high temperatures for several consecutive days, often associated with high humidity, strong sunlight and lack of ventilation. These climatic conditions can pose a health risk to the population,” states Italy’s health ministry on its information page.

“The more prolonged the heatwave, the greater the expected negative effects on health,” it added.

This latest scorching weather has followed a period of high heat, beginning with Italy’s first heatwave of the year in mid-May.

Official Italian government advice for people in areas facing the hottest temperatures include avoiding particularly busy areas, especially for very young children and the elderly.

READ ALSO: ‘Four to five light meals a day’: Italy’s official advice for surviving the heat

Public places such as parks and gardens during the cooler hours of the day are recommended, while heading to crowded places is discouraged.

Strenuous activity is not advised during the hottest times of the day, which are instead best spent “in the coolest room in the house, bathing often with cool water”.

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Italy has declared drought emergency in five northern regions

Italy declared a state of emergency in five northern regions and announced emergency funds over a worsening drought that has plagued the Po Valley in recent weeks.

Italy has declared drought emergency in five northern regions

The cabinet approved a state of emergency in five regions — Friuli-Romagna, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Lombardy, Piedmont and Veneto — until December 31, the government said in a statement that also announced a €36.5 million fund to help those affected.

Italy is facing an unusually early heatwave and a lack of rainfall, particularly in the northern agricultural Po Valley, which has been hit by its worst drought in 70 years.

READ ALSO: Eight ways to save water during Italy’s drought

The state of emergency provides “extraordinary means and powers” to help guarantee public safety, compensation for losses while seeking to guarantee normal living conditions for those in the area.

According to the country’s largest agricultural union, Coldiretti, the drought threatens more than 30 percent of national agricultural production, and half of the farms in the Po Valley, where Parma ham is produced.

Lakes Maggiore and Garda were also hit by lower than normal water levels for this time of year, while further south the Tiber River, which runs through Rome, also dropped.

READ ALSO: Drought in Italy: What water use restrictions are in place and where?

The Po represents the peninsula’s largest water reservoir, much of which is used by farmers.

In recent days, several municipalities have announced restrictions.

Verona, a city of a quarter of a million people, has rationed the use of drinking water, while Milan has announced the closure of its decorative fountains. Another consequence of the drought is that hydroelectric power production has fallen sharply.

Hydroelectric plants, mostly in the mountainous north of the country, account for nearly 20 percent of national energy production.

The announcement comes a day after at least seven people died after a glacier collapsed in the Italian Alps which Prime Minister Mario Draghi said was “without doubt” linked to global warming.