11 dead in Italy storms as wild weather sweeps Europe

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ROME, Oct 30, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – The death toll from fierce storms battering
Italy has risen to 11, civil protection authorities said Tuesday, as wild
weather swept parts of Europe, leaving motorists and tourists stranded.

Road were blocked and thousands of people were left without power in
southern and central Europe, as rains and violent winds sparked flooding and
tore trees from their roots.

Thick snow has also cloaked French and Italian mountain regions, trapping
hundreds of drivers in their cars and tourists in hotels.

In Italy, where Venice was inundated by near-record flooding and ferocious
storms drove high winds reaching up to 180 kilometres (110 miles) an hour,
authorities announced a further six deaths, after confirming five people had
died on Monday.

Luxury yachts lay smashed in the harbour of Rapallo near Genoa after a dam
broke under pressure.

“It was like a tsunami,” one stunned port worker was quoted as saying by
Italian media.

– Coastal surge –

“We thought the danger would come from the mountains, we thought the
problem would be landslides,” said Liguria head Giovanni Toti.

“Instead, we get a coastal storm surge the likes of which we’ve never
seen,” he said.

Authorities Tuesday reported a woman died when her home was engulfed by a
mudslide in the northern region of Trentino, a man was killed in the
northeastern Veneto region by a falling tree, and a firefighter died during
relief operations in South Tyrol.

Elsewhere, a man was killed while kitesurfing on Monday near the town of
Cattolica on the Adriatic coast, while the body of another man was recovered
Tuesday in Lake Levico in the north.

A man was also missing at sea off Calabria in the southwest, while the body
of another was found in a stream in northern Italy.

Italian media reported that around 170 people, tourists and hotel staff,
were stranded by heavy snowfall at the Stelvio Pass on the Swiss border.

Meanwhile in Friuli Venezia Giulia, local authorities said some 23,000
people were without power.

– Hundreds stranded –

In France, more than 1,000 drivers were trapped in their cars for the night
in the mountains of the Massif Central region as the roads were engulfed in
snowstorms.

Another 400 had to spend the night in train carriages at the main station
in the eastern city of Lyon after heavy snow blocked the tracks.

About 195,000 homes were without power across France — mostly in the east
and centre.

Another 21,000 homes were also cut off on the Mediterranean island of
Corsica, which was placed on red alert Monday for powerful winds, shutting
its airports and ports.

Croatia’s Adriatic coast has also been battered by gale-force winds and
heavy rains that have flooded streets, cut off power and ensnared road and
maritime traffic.

A Slovenian surfer has been missing since Monday in the sea off of Umag
city, on the northern Istria peninsula.

In Spain, over 100 soldiers were helping electrical repair crews to reach
isolated areas of the northern region of Asturias, blanketed by heavy
snowfall at the weekend.

– Venice swamped –

Italy’s canal city of Venice was swamped as heavy rainfall pushed the water
levels to near record levels on Monday.

Tourists were barred from St Mark’s Square as local authorities said the
“acqua alta” (high water) peaked at 156 centimetres (61 inches). The waters
have only topped 150 centimetres five times before in recorded history.

Art experts were racing to evaluate the damage to thousand-year old mosaics
in St Mark’s Basilica after the Bapistry and Zen Chapel flooded.

Two paintings by Spanish artist Joan Miro were damaged at the Palazzo
Zaguri, where they had been waiting to be hung.

Meteorologists expect the harsh weather to gradually ease in Italy.

Storms have also swept into Switzerland, buffeting the Ticino region near
the Italian border overnight, according to public broadcaster RTS.

Roads were blocked by fallen trees and flooding, while strong winds ripped
roof sections off buildings, including in Giubiasco where police said part of
a firm’s roof had smashed into a moving train and a house, without causing
injury.

In southern Austria, authorities have deployed hundreds of mobile anti-
flooding dams as rivers burst their banks, while in the city of Salzburg a
roof section from the mediaeval ramparts flew off in high winds.

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