Italy has been grappling with extreme weather conditions for a few weeks now. Northern Italy has experienced severe storms and hail, while an exceptional heatwave persists in Catania. Over the weekend, the city, home to 300'000 inhabitants, faced incredibly challenging circumstances due to the scorching temperatures.
The heat caused the asphalt to reach 50 degrees Celsius, leading to the melting of electric cables and leaving most of the city without electricity. This power outage also impacted the water supply, as the water pumps could not operate due to continuous power interruptions.
Minister of Civil Protection Nello Musumeci attributed the situation to climate change, as well as “infrastructure that does not appear to be absolutely adequate for the new context.” Musumeci confirmed that “the excessive heat has led to an inability of the underground cables to withstand the heat” and reassured that “over five hundred technicians and workers are at work” to deal with the emergency.
The Minister clarified that around 80% of Catania and the other 10 municipalities in the region were deeply affected by the emergency. This situation was primarily impacting the vulnerable segments of the population and those whose businesses cannot operate without electricity.
Roberto Tudisco, Mio Italia provincial president, told CataniaToday that it was necessary to declare a state of calamity in Catania because “without electricity or water, the future of thousands of public businesses is at stake, with thousands and thousands of jobs in the sector, which risk permanently lowering their shutters.” He stated that “over 500 commercial activities” were “hanging by a thread.”
However, the financial consequences were not the only concern. As Focus Sicilia reported, hospitals were left without air conditioning, due to electricity supply issues. The Huffington Post also cited a source from Catania saying that “many private clinics are suspending operations … because they can’t find a generator to keep the current safe in the operating room, and since they can’t risk the power going out during surgery … they don’t operate.” The source emphasized that the situation was terrifying.
As of late Monday, July 24, the electricity supply has nearly returned to normal, but there are still “sporadic voltage drops and temporary suspensions of electricity,” as stated by Sidra, the main electricity company of Catania.
The crisis was made worse by the dire conditions of the Catania airport. In fact, a part of Terminal A was damaged by a fire in mid-July, substantially complicating access to the city.
Musumeci assured that “to avoid a repetition of this absurd situation, Enel (an Italian distributor of electricity and gas) is going to invest 412 million Euros … over the next two years to upgrade and adapt the electricity network.”
To conclude, extreme weather conditions profoundly affected Catania over the weekend, leaving the city without electricity and water. The situation appeared to be under control by Monday, but sporadic problems might still occur.
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