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HEATWAVE

Italy declares drought emergency in five northern regions

Italy's government 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 declares drought emergency in five northern regions
An aerial view shows the Ponte delle Barche (Bridge of the Boats) in Bereguardo, near Pavia, Lombardy, and the low water level of the Ticino river. (Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP)

The cabinet approved a state of emergency in five regions – Friuli-Romagna, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Lombardy, Piedmont and Veneto – until December 31st, 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.

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CLIMATE CRISIS

Historic drought resurfaces World War II bomb in Italy’s River Po

Historically low water levels in northern Italy's River Po exposed an unexploded WWII-era bomb over the weekend.

Historic drought resurfaces World War II bomb in Italy's River Po

Bomb disposal experts from the Italian military were called on to safely detonate the 450kg bomb, which they achieved via a controlled explosion on Sunday.

Around 3,000 residents from the nearby village of Borgo Virgilio near Mantua in northern Italy were evacuated as a safety precaution, according to army officials.

“At first, some of the inhabitants said they would not move, but in the last few days, we think we have persuaded everyone,” the village’s mayor Francesco Aporti told Reuters.

READ ALSO: Venice shuts down for WWII-era bomb removal

The bomb, which reportedly contained 240kg of explosives, was transferred to a quarry approximately 30km away from where it was discovered before being blown up.

The device came to light after a months-long drought – described as Italy’s worst in 70 years – caused parts of the River Po to dry up, leaving its riverbed exposed for the first time in decades.

Italy, along with much of continental Europe, has suffered from a series of extreme heatwaves over the summer, causing devastation to its agricultural sector and a sharp increase in wildfires.

The approximately four thousand risotto rice paddies in the Po Valley around the River Po have been particularly hard hit, with farmers forced to abandon some fields altogether try to rescue others.

READ ALSO: Italy’s risotto rice fields decimated by worst drought in decades

“The situation is desperate, not to say apocalyptic,” one rice farmer told AFP news agency in late July.

Italy supplies more than half of the European Union’s rice, most of which is grown in the Po Valley in a 220,000-hectare area stretching west from Pavia in Lombardy to Vercelli and Novara in Piedmont.

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