Towns around Italy’s famous Lake Como have been hit by mudslides and floods in another example of extreme weather phenomena that an agricultural lobby said had intensified in recent years.
Firefighters carried out more than 60 rescues after storms wreaked havoc around the picturesque lake ringed by mountains in northern Italy.
They included bringing to safety an elderly woman blocked in her home, as well as a person with a disability and a caregiver isolated by a landslide. No deaths or injuries were reported.
Brienno, on the lake’s western shore, was the hardest hit town, with 50 residents trapped in their home when a landslide caused a gas leak.
Further south in Cernobbio, firefighters evacuated an apartment building threatened with flooding.
“We are facing in Italy the consequences of climate change, with a trend toward tropicalisation and the multiplication of extreme events,” said agricultural lobby group Coldiretti, citing more frequent, sudden and violent storms, short and intense rainfall and rapid changes from sunny skies to storms.
Coldiretti estimates there has been 14 billion euros (£12 billion) of damage over the last decade to agriculture production, buildings and infrastructure because of climate change-provoked events like flooding and landslides.
The storms devastating Lake Como come a day after hailstones the size of tennis balls damaged nearly 100 cars and stalled traffic on a major road near Bologna in northern Italy.
Video showed cars with windshields shattered by the hailstones pulled over on the side of the road as drivers and passengers surveyed the damage.
While hailstorms are a common summer feature in Italy’s Po River Valley, meteorologist Luca Lombroso told the Bologna daily, il Resto di Carlino, that the strength and frequency of hailstorms this year has made the phenomenon “unusual”.
Coldiretti said its analysis shows that hailstorms are occurring at the rate of 11 a day this summer, with 386 so far this year.
That compares with a few dozen a year up to six years ago, a rate that grew to 92 in 2018 and 198 in 2019.
“The dimension of the hailstones also has changed, growing considerably in the last years with real ice blocks falling from the sky — even bigger than tennis balls,” Coldiretti said.
Hailstorms can wipe out entire fields or orchards of vegetable and fruit. Coldiretti attributes a 40% drop in peach and apricot harvests and a 50% drop in nectarines to “this crazy climate”.
Enjoy the convenience of having The Sunday Post delivered as a digital ePaper straight to your smartphone, tablet or computer.
Subscribe for only £5.49 a month and enjoy all the benefits of the printed paper as a digital replica.Subscribe