Italy faced the hottest day of the current heatwave on Friday, with red extreme heat warnings issued for 16 cities across the country as firefighters battled blazes across the country.
Milan in the north is expected to be hardest hit, with temperatures reaching up to 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit), while Bologna in the south and the capital Rome could reach 39 degrees, according to official government estimates.
Other major cities advertised by Italy’s Health Ministry with a red heatwave warning for Friday and Saturday include Florence, Genoa, Turin and Verona.
On Thursday, the city of Pavia, south of Milan, broke a record with thermometers reaching 39.6 degrees.
For three consecutive months — May, June and July — national temperatures have been at least two to three degrees above the seasonal average, and the trend should continue through early August, national weather website ilmeteo.com said.
Along with the heat, hundreds of fires have erupted across Italy in recent weeks. The biggest Friday still raging occurred in central Tuscany, where 860 hectares had burned in an area west of Lucca since Monday.
Over 1,000 people were evacuated on Thursday.
On Friday, 87 firefighters were on the scene after another night of battling the blazes, aided by reinforcements from the Lombardy and Piedmont regions. Water dumps from helicopters were ongoing, authorities said.
The public prosecutor’s office in Lucca has started investigations into the cause of the fire.
– Volunteers Killed –
More contained was a forest fire that broke out Tuesday near Trieste in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy’s north-easternmost region, sending flames and huge plumes of smoke across the border into Slovenia, displacing about 300 people.
The fire – which caused a 15-minute general blackout in the city of Trieste on Tuesday – is now “essentially stable,” Deputy Governor Riccardo Riccardi said Thursday, adding that a cold front is expected on Tuesday.
Authorities had not yet calculated how many hectares had been burned.
Firefighters said a civil defense worker died trying to fight the blaze. Local media reported she was killed by a falling tree.
Italy’s national fire brigade says it responded to 32,921 wildfires from June 15 to July 21, or 4,040 more than the same period last year.
Most were in the southern regions of Sicily, Apulia, Calabria and Lazio near Rome.
Fires have devastated 27,571 hectares in Italy so far this year, according to the specialized European surveillance service Copernicus.
However, this damage is still significantly less than in Spain, where 199,651 hectares burned, or 149,324 hectares in Romania. In Portugal, 48,106 hectares burned, another 39,904 hectares in France.
Italy is “about to reach the maximum performance of the African high pressure zone ‘Apocalypse 4800′”, according to ilmeteo.it.
The name refers to the fact that the thermometer only drops below zero at altitudes above 4,800 meters (15,748 feet) – which corresponds to the highest peak in the Alps, Mont Blanc on the French-Italian border.
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