Heatwave kills 49 in southern Europe By Malcolm Moore in Rome Last Updated: 2:09am BST 28/06/2007
The Italian government was yesterday urged to call a state of emergency in Sicily after a heatwave resulted in several deaths, forest fires and power cuts.
An ice seller in Palermo, where temperatures hit 113F (45C) this week
Temperatures in Sicily, and in the south of Italy, have hovered between 104-113F (40-45C) this week. The death toll in Italy reached nine by yesterday evening, while almost 40 people had died elsewhere in central and southern Europe, the majority of them in Romania.
Firefighters in Italy and Greece struggled to put out more than 120 forest fires, while in Sicily, the police accused the Mafia of several cases of arson. Picnics were banned in Turkey for fear of forest fires.
There were long power cuts in Sicily because of the heavy demand for air conditioning.
Shopkeepers threatened Enel, the Italian state electricity company, with legal action to claim damages for the cuts. There was also chaos in the streets after several traffic lights stopped working.
advertisementMany offices and hospitals closed down, and a court suspended the trial of Salvatore Cuffaro, the island's governor, who is charged with Mafia association.
Zoos showered their animals with cold water and fed them blocks of ice to cool down, while farmers complained that the heatwave was ruining their crops.
Grapes in Sicily and in Calabria, in the toe of Italy, are already mature enough to be harvested for wine, two months before schedule. "The high temperature is destroying our whole year's work," said Mario Caruso, the mayor of Ciro in Calabria. The local water company warned that drinking water could run short if the heatwave continued.
In Romania, there were fears that half of the year's cereal crops would be lost, after a combination of the current weather with a warm winter and a dry spring. Temperatures are expected to start falling by the end of the week.
• A rare snowstorm dusted Johannesburg yesterday as a winter weather front moved across the country, closing mountain passes and killing at least one person.
Gleeful children built snowmen in Johannesburg's Zoo Lake Park, while families could be seen carrying snowballs back to their cars, fast-melting souvenirs of the city's first significant snowfall since 1981.