Northern Italy storms kill two as Sicily fires close airport

  • Two people have died after storms battered northern Italy. 
  • Wildfires raged in the south resulting in the closure of Palermo airport in Sicily. 
  • The dichotomous weather has raised alarm over climate change. 

A 16-year-old girl on a camping trip was among two people who died after violent storms hit northern Italy, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said Tuesday, while in the south wildfires forced the closure of Sicily’s Palermo airport.

The teenager was killed when a tree fell on her tent during a scout camp near Brescia, after high winds and torrential rain overnight.

On Monday, a middle-aged woman died after also being hit by a falling tree in Lissone, north of Milan.

Meloni confirmed the two “tragic” deaths due to bad weather, and offered her thoughts to their loved ones on social media.

Milan residents reported torrential rain and hail in the early hours of Tuesday morning, which flooded streets and uprooted trees, many of which fell onto parked cars.

Transport authorities reported serious damage to the city’s electricity network, while an AFP journalist said water in the historic centre was temporarily shut off.

Firefighters said the situation was “very serious”, reporting more than 200 calls for help across Milan since 4:00 (2:00 GMT).

But even as the north was drenched, the heatwave across the south persisted, with temperatures of 47.6 degrees Celsius (117 degrees Fahrenheit) recorded in the eastern Sicilian city of Catania on Monday.

Firefighters on the island spent a night battling wildfires, one of which approached so close to Palermo airport that it shut down for several hours Tuesday morning.

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Italy’s Civil Protection Department on Tuesday reported “extensive fires” across the south, saying air support had been requested for nine incidents in Sicily, nine in Calabria and another in Sardinia.

“We are experiencing in Italy one of the most complicated days in recent decades – rainstorms, tornadoes and giant hail in the north, and scorching heat and devastating fires in the centre and south,” said Civil Protection Minister Nello Musumeci.

Writing on Facebook, he added: “The climate upheaval that has hit our country demands of us all… a change of attitude.”

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