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Italy's heatwave sparks emergencies, threatens agriculture

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Rome, June 18 (Ajit Weekly News) A heatwave swept across Italy this week, sparking emergencies in at least four cities and putting half of the agricultural production in the north at drought risk.

An orange heat emergency, the second highest emergency level, was declared on Friday in cities of Brescia, Turin, Florence and Perugia, reports Xinhua news agency.

The most vulnerable, the elderly, children, the chronically ill, and pregnant women, are advised to stay indoors during the hottest hours of the day.

Three of these four cities declared a 24-hour emergency status.

In Turin, however, the status is predicted to continue for several days and escalate into “red” on Sunday, the most severe status.

Temperatures in some parts of the north topped 40 degrees Celsius.

The agricultural association Agricotori Italiani said as much as half of the agricultural production in northern Italy was now at risk due to drought conditions.

It said the precipitation volume in these areas so far this year was only half of last year’s volume, and estimated 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) in damages.

According to Alberto Cirio, governor of the Piedmont region where Turin is located, the Po River, Italy’s longest waterway crucial to agricultural irritation, is 72 per cent below its normal water level.

He said some parts of the region had not reported any rain for more than 110 days, a situation that was exacerbated by a lack of snowfall in the winter months.

On Friday, Cirio ordered that 170 towns in Piedmont use water only for “essential” purposes such as drinking and cooking.

According to Edoardo Zanchini, the newly-installed director of the climate change office in Rome, high temperatures and drought will be more frequent and called on the local and national governments to take steps to adapt to the trend.

“It’s not only a problem in Italy, but all over Europe,” Zanchini told Xinhua. “A similar situation was reported in 2003, when heatwaves killed thousands of people. And just like this year, high temperatures started already in June.”

He foresaw a blazing and difficult summer this year.

–Ajit Weekly News

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