| 2 December 2023, Saturday |

Storms kill two in northern Italy, Palermo airport reopens after fire

Palermo’s airport reopened on Tuesday after wildfires in Sicily forced its closure for a few hours as extreme weather continued to batter Italy, with severe storms causing damage and at least two deaths in the north of the country.

The airport operator said in a tweet shortly before 0900 GMT that only a limited number of outbound flights would be allowed “for the moment”. However, it later added that a plane from Turin in northern Italy had been able to land.

The airport was closed earlier as firefighters sought to put out a major blaze in a nearby area that also disrupted local road and rail traffic. Regional authorities said a woman died after an ambulance could not reach her home due to the blaze.

The temporary closure of the airport added to Sicily’s travel misery at the peak of the tourist season. The island’s main airport of Catania, Italy’s fifth-biggest, was closed last week due to a fire in a terminal building and has reopened only for a few flights.

A heat wave has hit southern Europe, with scorching temperatures bringing increased risk of fires and deaths.

In some parts of eastern Sicily, temperatures rose to 47.6 Celsius (117.7 Fahrenheit) on Monday, close to a record European high of 48.8 Celsius recorded on the island two years ago.

On Tuesday, Italy put 16 cities on red alert because of the high temperatures. These include Palermo and Catania, where power and water supply cuts that local officials blamed in part on the heat have been frequent in recent days.

Meanwhile, an overnight storm in Milan tore off roofs and uprooted trees, blocking roads and disrupting overground transportation in Italy’s financial capital.

Two women were killed on Monday and Tuesday in the northern Monza and Brescia provinces after being crushed by falling trees.

“I have been through 65 summers in my lifetime… and what I am seeing now is not normal, we can no longer deny it, climate change is changing our lives,” Milan Mayor Giuseppe Sala said on social media.

  • Reuters