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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Environmental activists pour green dye in Venice canal

Environmental activists from the group Extinction Rebellion poured dye into Venice's Grand Canal and several Italian rivers Saturday in protest against the "failure" of ongoing international climate talks to deliver results.

Environmental activists pour green dye in Venice canal

In the middle of the afternoon, the activists poured a fluorescent green liquid into the Grand Canal, Venice, in the midst of passers-by, gondolas and tourists, according to images posted on social networks.

At the same time, activists hanging from ropes and harnesses unfurled a banner from Venice’s famous Rialto Bridge reading “COP28: while the government talks, we’re hanging on by a thread”.

Extinction Rebellion Italy said on X, formerly Twitter, that it had sprayed a “harmless” fluorescein dye in the Venice waters.

“The climate crisis is already having a disastrous impact on Italy, science tells us it’s going to get worse and politicians are wasting time with farce,” the group lamented in a statement.

“We are revolting against this inaction, we cannot remain silent while our future is sold out to the fossil industries!”

Similar actions were carried out in the Tiber in Rome, in a canal in Milan and in the Po in Turin, according to images posted on social networks.

READ ALSO: MYSTERY SOLVED: Why Venice’s Grand Canal turned green

In May, environmental activists painted the basin of Rome’s iconic Trevi Fountain black after deadly floods in northeast Italy, which they claimed was a “warning” about climate change.

China said on Saturday it saw progress in reaching a climate deal at a key United Nations COP28 summit in Dubai, despite a last-minute push by the OPEC oil cartel to resist a phase-out of fossil fuels.