Italy sweltering in heatwave

2010-07-16 14:04

Rome – Italy's civil protection agency on Friday placed 18 cities including Rome and Milan on maximum alert as the country experienced a major heat wave that was set to worsen at the weekend.

From the northern cities of Trieste, Venice and Genoa to southern Naples, temperatures soared to over 40 degrees Celsius, some five degrees above seasonal averages.

The health ministry opened a citizens' hotline as the heat wave was set to peak on Saturday, when another three cities are expected to be put on maximum alert, which is declared for excessive hot spells lasting more than three days.

The measure calls for preventive care for people at risk such as the elderly, infants and those with lung and heart conditions.

Electrical consumption on Friday was close to a historic summer high as Italians turned to air conditioning for relief.

In Rome, the perceived temperature (taking into account humidity levels) on Friday and Saturday was expected to reach 43 degrees Celsius before the hot spell was forecast to ease from Sunday.

The heat and lack of rain has also increased the risk of fires.

The civil protection agency recorded 12 brush fires on Thursday, half of them in Sicily.