Italy’s heat-related mortality rate was 21 percent above the seasonal average for the first two weeks of July, the health ministry said in a bulletin published on Monday.
There were 733 more deaths in 33 major Italian cities monitored by health authorities between July 1st and July 15th than in a typical year – a 21 percent increase on the average for that period.
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Some central-southern parts of the country, where the heat has been particularly concentrated, experienced a far sharper spike in the death rate: by up to 72 percent in Latina and 56 percent in Viterbo (respectively south and north of Rome); 56 percent in Bari (Puglia); 51 percent in Cagliari (Sardinia); and 48 percent in Catanzaro (Calabria).
June also saw more deaths than in a typical year in Italy, the numbers show: a nine percent increase on seasonal averages over the course of the month.
“This first analysis shows that the high temperatures and heat waves that affected our country in June and in the first two weeks of July were associated with an increase in mortality, especially in the central-southern regions most affected by intensity and duration of the phenomenon,” the ministry’s bulletin reads.
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, decimating the risotto rice farms that make up much of the area.
Average temperatures of between two and three degrees above the seasonal average were consistently recorded across the country between May and June, with spikes of up to 10 degrees in some areas.
Similar highs are forecast for August, with warnings from meteorologists that mercury levels could shoot up 10C or even 15C higher than the average for this month.
In July, factory workers across the Piedmont region went on strike after the sudden death of a worker at an automotive manufacturing plant was linked to heat exhaustion.