Hurricane winds, severe storms leave 8 dead in France, Italy

PARIS — Violent thunderstorms and hurricane-force winds left at least eight dead on Thursday in France and Italy, uprooted trees in Tuscany and the French island of Corsica and shards of brick torn from the famous San Marco bell tower in Venice. More than 100 boats in the Mediterranean called for emergency aid, authorities said.

The storm produced gusts of more than 220 km/h in some areas, the national weather agency Meteo France said. About 45,000 households in Corsica were without power, killing six people. Dozens of people were injured and 12 were hospitalized in Corsica, one of them in critical condition, authorities said.

Italy’s regions of Tuscany and Veneto have both declared a state of emergency as severe storms in the north contrasted with temperatures of up to 43 degrees Celsius (109 degrees Fahrenheit) in southern Italy.

Storms have ravaged western European countries in recent days after a summer of extreme weather, while neighbors in central and eastern Europe continue to experience exceptional heatwaves and drought.

Two people were killed in separate incidents in Tuscany when storms torn trees on Thursday, one near the city of Lucca and another near Carrara. Another four people were injured by falling trees at a campsite near Carrara.

In Corsica, a 13-year-old girl died after a tree fell at a campsite in the coastal town of Sagone. A 72-year-old woman was killed when the roof of a beach restaurant fell on her vehicle in Coggia, and a 46-year-old man died at a campsite in the town of Calvi.

Rescue teams found the bodies of a 62-year-old fisherman and an unidentified kayaker off the west and east coasts of Corsica, according to the French Maritime Authority for the Mediterranean. It said both died as a result of the sudden storm and that more than 100 stranded, wrecked or stranded ships in the area have called for emergency assistance. A sixth victim was reported late Thursday.

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French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin traveled to the island on Thursday.

In Venice, strong winds loosened pieces of brick from San Marco’s bell tower, which stands in front of the famous cathedral. Tourists were evacuated from the building, which had been cordoned off. The storm knocked over chairs and tables in St. Mark’s Square and elsewhere, sweeping beach chairs on nearby Lido.

The wind suddenly picked up and had calmed down within five minutes, said Carlo Alberto Tesserin, the caretaker of the basilica and bell tower. “These weren’t the usual winds for us,” Tesserin told The Associated Press.

In northern Italy, a nighttime storm forced the closure of a railway southeast of Genoa after high winds carried beach structures on the tracks, damaging the electrical circuit.

The storm hit during Italy’s busiest beach holiday week. The mayor of Sestri Levanti, Valentina Ghio, warned that whirlwinds were possible and called on visitors to stay away from the beaches until the storm passed.

Hail the size of walnuts pounded the Italian region of Liguria with enough force to break the windows of houses and damage orchards and gardens.

While northern Italy has experienced its worst drought in decades this year, heavy rains in recent days that brought hail, tornadoes and floods have damaged or destroyed entire crops of fruits and vegetables along with vineyards and olive groves, Italy said. Coldiretti agricultural lobby.

Thunderstorms Wednesday flooded the Paris metro stations and the old port of Marseille, and winds of more than 100 kph (60 mph) were recorded at the top of the Eiffel Tower during a flash flood Tuesday.

The torrential rains come amid a summer of drought, heatwaves and wildfires across Europe that scientists are linking to human-induced climate change.

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But in the east, on the southern Great Plain of Hungary, shepherd Sandor Kalman can only dream of rain. He grazes sheep on land that has been parched by intense heat and little rain. As he walks across his pastures, the grass—strewn with wide swaths of dry dust and sand—crunches beneath his boots.

“In this heat wave, this clay soil is actually burning the sheep’s feet, it’s so hot,” he said, adding that his sheepdogs also find it difficult to walk on the parched earth. “I’m 57 years old, but I’ve never seen such a big drought.”

Hungarian meteorological data this year shows the worst lack of rainfall since 1901.

The water level of the Danube River, one of Europe’s largest waterways, has fallen 1.5 meters in three weeks near Budapest, warning the regional water company that drinking water supplies could be at risk.

“The future is difficult to predict, but forecasts and climate models suggest further severe droughts are likely,” said Klara Kerpely of environmental group WWF Hungary, warning officials will need to prepare for more frequent extreme weather and review Hungary’s water retention system.


Barry reported from Milan. Bela Szandelszky in Budapest and Angela Charlton in Paris contributed.


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