Blackouts, water shortages, wildfires: How extreme heat is hitting Sicily

AFP/The Local
AFP/The Local - [email protected]
Blackouts, water shortages, wildfires: How extreme heat is hitting Sicily
A prolonged heatwave has peaked in northern Italy but temperatures remain above 40C across much of the south. (Photo by Loic VENANCE / AFP)

Italian officials held crisis talks on Monday over how to manage blackouts in Sicily that have left hundreds of thousands of people without electricity and water for days during a searing heatwave.


The head of Italy's civil protection agency, Nello Musumeci, led the meeting in Catania, where the local mayor said the city had been "brought to its knees" by rolling power cuts.

A heatwave that has baked southern Europe over the past week has yet to ease in southern Italy. In Sicily, the civil protection agency reported a temperature of 47.6 degrees Celsius in Catania on Monday.

Sicily was also on high alert for wildfires on Monday as the intense heat created ideal conditions for blazes to spread on the island.

"We are paying on the one hand for climate change, to which we should have been paying more attention for several years, and on the other for infrastructure that does not appear entirely adequate to the new context," Musumeci said according to Italian news agencies.

Catania and surrounding areas have suffered power cuts since Thursday, with more than 500,000 people affected, a spokesman for municipality told AFP.


Power cuts affected Rome and other southern Italian cities last week as Italy saw a new energy use record amid the heatwave.

In a statement on Sunday, Sicily's energy supplier e-distribuzione, the distribution arm of energy giant Enel, blamed heat damage to underground cables.

"We find ourselves operating in conditions of exceptional climatic emergency," where the temperature of the asphalt on roads has reached 50 degrees, it said.

"This, if added to the high humidity, does not allow the correct dissipation of heat with consequent damage to the underground cables."


It said it was working to boost capacity and had deployed hundreds of technicians to address the issue.

The power cuts have stopped water pumps from operating, with between 200,000 and 300,000 people affected, although the situation was resolved on Monday morning, water firm Sidra said.

Local authorities have set up air conditioned rooms for the elderly and other vulnerable people, including the homeless, and have urged people to moderate their use of air conditioners at home to avoid exacerbating the issue.


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also