Northern Italy counts storm damage as bad weather moves south

Severe storms that left two dead and dozens injured in the north of Italy began to calm on Friday, leaving residents and emergency services to assess the damage.

Northern Italy counts storm damage as bad weather moves south
Firefighters recover a souvenir stand blown into the Grand Canal in Venice by strong winds on August 18th. Photo by Andrea PATTARO / AFP

Tuscany was among the worst-hit areas, with two people reported dead and at least a hundred evacuated on Thursday.

Liguria’s coastline meanwhile was “heavily hit”, local mayors said, with homes, beach clubs and other businesses badly damaged and a major railway line temporarily closed.

READ ALSO: Two dead as northern Italy battered by severe storms

Residents of Venice were cleaning up on Friday after strong winds and heavy rain damaged homes and businesses, and even the iconic St Mark’s belltower.

Tourists were evacuated and parts of central Venice cordoned off late on Thursday as strong winds upended cafe tables and swept away umbrellas in St Mark’s Square, and the city’s famous newspaper kiosks were knocked over or damaged.

St. Mark’s Square in Venice. Photo by Andrea PATTARO / AFP

Two people were reported injured, one at St Mark’s and the other at the Lido, where beach clubs also suffered extensive damage.

Authorities in Rome were bracing to deal with further storm damage across the country on Friday, warning people to be cautious as the wave of bad weather spread across the country,

The extreme weather was caused by masses of low-pressure air moving south, Italy’s Department for Civil Protection said.

In an update published late on Thursday, the department said “the development of new intense thunderstorms” in the north and centre of the country “remained possible” throughout the day on Friday.

As a result, authorities issued an amber alert for the regions of Lombardy and Veneto for Friday, August 19th, whereas a lower-level yellow storm alert was in place for the rest of the north and centre of Italy.

“At the same time, the tail of the perturbation will lead to an unstable transit, with less widespread but intense phenomena,” the civil protection department said.

Storms may also affect parts of the centre and south, it said, particularly “Umbria, Marche, Lazio, Abruzzo and Sardinia, where scattered thunderstorms may develop, with showers of rain or hail, electrical activity and gusts of wind”.

Experts say climate change is boosting the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, droughts and wildfires.

Italian environmental group Legambiente said on Friday the number of such extreme weather events has surged in Italy, with 132 in the last six months alone – the highest average figure in the last decade.

The group said “Italy is ever more subject to extreme climate events” because of global heating caused by human activity.

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Italian climate activists throw flour over Andy Warhol car

Italian environmental group Ultima Generazione on Friday poured flour over a sports car painted by Andy Warhol on display in Milan, in the latest of a wave of protests demanding action on climate change.

Italian climate activists throw flour over Andy Warhol car

Protesters entered the Fabbrica del Vapore exhibition space in Milan at around 11am on Friday morning and threw eight kilos of flour over a BMW sports car painted by the late Andy Warhol back in 1979. 

Two members of the environmental group Ultima Generazione (‘Last Generation’) then proceeded to glue their hands to the car’s windows. 

At the time of writing it wasn’t clear whether the artwork, valued at 10 million euros, had suffered any significant damage.

“They told us beauty will save the world, but that’s bullshit,” Ultima Generazione sad in a statement released immediately afterwards.

“Only immediate and radical actions to tackle the effects of the current climate crisis will change the world as we know it.”

Activists from Italy’s Ultima Generazione after their latest protest in Milan on Friday, November 18th. Photo: Ultima Generazione.

In the same statement, the group referred to the Italian government’s handling of the environmental crisis as “criminal”, accusing people in power of “endangering people’s lives”.

Friday’s episode was only the latest in a series of demonstrations seeking to jolt public opinion over the consequences of climate change and the need to make the switch to renewable energy sources.

READ ALSO: Climate activists hurl pea soup at Van Gogh painting in Rome

Only two weeks ago, on November 4th, protesters from the same group hurled pea soup at a Van Gogh painting in Rome – an action which Italy’s new culture minister, Gennaro Sangiuliano, later condemned as “ignoble”. 

Ultima Generazione began in 2021 as a “campaign of nonviolent civil disobedience” aimed at uniting Italian activists concerned about climate change and the future of the planet.

The group has two main demands. Firstly, they ask that the reopening of old coal power plants be paused immediately and that all scheduled fracking operations be cancelled. 

Secondly, they want an increase in the use of solar energy and wind power equivalent to at least 20 gigawatts. 

Ultima Generazione is part of a EU-wide network of climate activists who have been recently targeting world-famous artworks, including Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring” in The Hague, Netherlands and Gustav Klimt’s “Death and Life” in Vienna.