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WEATHER

Italy issues storm alert for central and southern regions as heatwave breaks

Many parts of southern and central Italy were on alert for thunderstorms, hail and high winds on Wednesday evening as the heatwave continued to break.

Italy issues storm alert for central and southern regions as heatwave breaks
More bad weather is forecast in the Lazio region around Rome before the return of hot weather later this week. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP

Italy’s civil protection department issued a bad-weather alert for parts of Abruzzo, Calabria, Campania, Lazio, Molise and Sicily as thunderstorms followed days of sticky heat.

While many welcomed the prospect of rain in southern areas after months of extremely hot and dry conditions, the weather has turned from one extreme to the other.

READ ALSO: Italy reports a surge in deaths this summer due to extreme heat

Torrential rain has already caused mudslides and severe damage in Campania, near Avellino south of Naples, while two people drowned in a flooded canal in the northern city of Padua, according to Italian news agency Ansa.

Further storms are forecast across the country this week before another heatwave begins.

There have so far been 1,140 ‘extreme weather events’ in Italy this summer, farmers’ association Coldiretti said on Wednesday.

READ ALSO: Will summer 2022 be Italy’s hottest ever?

Along with much of the rest of mainland Europe, Italy has been battered by a series of heatwaves this summer that have fuelled forest fires and drained rivers.

The Po Valley in the north of the Italy, one of country’s most important agricultural areas, is currently experiencing its worst drought in 70 years,

While it’s not yet known if 2022 will be the hottest summer on record, it is on course to be the driest, meteorologists said.

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CLIMATE CRISIS

MAP: The parts of Italy most at risk from floods and extreme weather

After flooding devastated parts of central Italy on Friday, data has revealed the areas most at risk as such 'extreme weather events' become more frequent.

MAP: The parts of Italy most at risk from floods and extreme weather

After severe storms and flash floods in the central Marche region last week left 11 dead, with two still missing, environmental organisation Legambiente said climate interventions “can no longer be put off”.

“The climate crisis is no joke,” the group said in a press release published on Saturday. “The flooding that hit Le Marche is yet another alarm bell that the planet is sending us.”

IN PHOTOS: Devastation after deadly flash floods hit central Italy

Italy was hit by a total 64 floods between January and September 2022, according to the latest data from Legambiente’s Città Clima (‘Climate City’) Observatory, with some areas worse affected than others.

As the majority of Italy’s floods occur in the autumn and winter, it’s feared that the total figure for 2022 will be higher than for 2021.

Disasters like the one that hit Marche are difficult to predict, but data from the most recent Città Clima Observatory’s report, published in November of last year, shows which parts of the peninsula have suffered the greatest number of extreme weather events since 2010, giving an idea of the areas most at risk.

Data showed these were mainly large cities such as Rome, Bari, Milan, Genoa and Palermo, and coastal areas, particularly the coasts of Romagna, northern Marche, and eastern Sicily.

The parts of Italy that have experienced the most extreme weather events since 2010. Source: Città Clima

Sicily has been the worst-hit region in recent months, battered by eight floods so far this year and 14 in 2021, the Città Clima interactive map shows. Palermo, Catania and Syracuse have each experienced multiple floods in the past couple of years.

Lazio has also been hard hit, experiencing six flooding events so far in 2022 and ten in 2021, the majority of which occurred in Rome.

READ ALSO

Capital city Rome experienced by far the highest number of extreme weather events: 56 in total, of which 13 involved such heavy rainfall it caused damage to infrastructure and 21 necessitated a partial closure of metro lines.

Bari, the capital of Puglia, was the next worst hit, with a total of 41 events, 20 of which were floods and 18 of which took the form of tornados or whirlwinds that caused damage to the city.

Milan experienced 30 events, of which 20 were a result of river flooding.

The metropolitan area of Naples experienced 31 events, 18 of which occurred in Naples itself, while Genoa was hit by 21 events variously consisting of flooding, torrential rainfall and whirlwinds, and Palermo experienced 15.

A total of 132 extreme weather events were recorded in Italy between January and July 2022 – more than the annual average for the last decade, Legambiente reported in its press release.

A flooded field in Sassoferrato, Ancona province, after severe storms on Friday. Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

There have been a total of 510 floods in Italy from 2010 to September 2022, 88 of which happened in 2021, according to the organisation’s statistics.

The association urged the government to take urgent action, arguing that Italy is currently the only major European country that lacks climate adaptation plan, which it says has been on hold since 2018.

“There is no more time to waste,” said Legambiente president Stefano Ciafani.

“If the plan is not approved in a very short timeframe, we risk seeing disastrous social, environmental and economic impacts over the next few years.”

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