Italy heatwave peaks with 16 towns on red alert as Tuscany burns

ROME: Italy faced the hottest day of the current heatwave on Friday with red extreme heat warnings issued for 16 cities across the country, as firefighters battled blazes across the country.

The worst affected country is expected to be Milan in the north with temperatures reaching 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit), while Bologna in the south and the capital Rome could reach 39 degrees, according to official government estimates.

Florence, Genoa, Turin and Verona are other major cities under red alert for the heat wave for Friday and Saturday by the Italian Ministry of Health.

On Thursday, the town of Pavia, just south of Milan, broke a record with thermometers hitting 39.6 degrees.

For three consecutive months – May, June and July – national temperatures have been at least two to three degrees above the seasonal average, and the trend is expected to continue through early August, the national weather site said.

Along with the heat, hundreds of fires have broken out across Italy in recent weeks. The largest still raging on Friday was in central Tuscany, where 860 hectares had burned since Monday in an area west of Lucca.

More than 1,000 people were evacuated on Thursday.

On Friday, 87 firefighters were on the ground after another night battling the flames, helped by reinforcements from the Lombardy and Piedmont regions. Water spills from helicopters were ongoing, authorities said.

Lucca prosecutors have opened an investigation into the cause of the fire.

Volunteer killed

More contained, a forest fire broke out on Tuesday near Trieste, in the most northeastern region of Italy, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, sending flames and vast plumes of smoke across the border towards Slovenia and displacing around 300 people.

The fire, which caused a 15-minute general blackout in the city of Trieste on Tuesday, is now “noticeably stable”, Deputy Governor Riccardo Riccardi said on Thursday, adding that a cold front was expected on Tuesday.

Authorities had not yet calculated how many hectares had been burned.

Firefighters said a civil defense volunteer died while trying to fight the blaze. Local media said she was killed by a falling tree.

Italy’s national fire brigade says it responded to 32,921 forest fires from June 15 to July 21, 4,040 more than the same period last year.

Most were in the southern regions of Sicily, Puglia, Calabria and Lazio, around Rome.

According to the specialized European monitoring service Copernicus, the fires have ravaged 27,571 hectares in Italy so far this year.

This damage is however still much lower than that of Spain, where 199,651 hectares have burned, or 149,324 hectares in Romania. In Portugal, 48,106 hectares burned, and an additional 39,904 hectares in France.

Italy is “on the verge of reaching the maximum power of the African high pressure zone ‘Apocalypse 4800′”, said.

The name, he said, referred to the thermometer dropping below zero degrees only at altitudes above 4,800 meters (15,748 feet) – corresponding to the highest peak in the Alps, Mont Blanc along the Franco-French border. Italian. -AFP