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Christmas storms cause turmoil, skier killed

Power outage at Cortina d'Ampezzo, islands cut off

26 December, 17:55
Christmas storms cause turmoil, skier killed (By Paul Virgo) (ANSA) - Rome, December 26 - A wave of Christmas storms continued to batter Italy on Thursday after causing deaths and major damage in France, Britain and Spain.

High winds, heavy rain and snow in many northern areas sparked transport disruption, a series of injuries and were linked to one death.

A 24-year-old French skier died in a Turin hospital after being swept up by an avalanche in the nearby mountains of Bardonecchia.

A thick covering of snow and gale-force gusts led to power cuts in the Alpine resort of Cortina d'Ampezzo and several other towns in the area.

The situation was complicated by the fact that many roads in this area and in other parts of the country were impossible to use due to snow and fallen trees.

Indeed, around 20 people trapped in eight cars by the snow were rescued early on Thursday after spending the night in their vehicles. Over 70 technicians from energy company Enel started work early in the day to try to restore electricity supplies in the area. The wave of bad weather, which took grip in Italy in earnest on Christmas Day, also led to several landslides. Around 50 people belonging to 18 families were evacuated after a landslide hit two apartment buildings in the Pontedecimo suburb of Genoa. An 18-year-old boy and his 16-year-old female friend required assistance after being injured and trapped in a car in a landslide at Bellagio, in Lombardy, the region around Milan.

Two families had to be evacuated from their homes in Premana, near Lecco, after a mudslide covered part of the town.

Heavy rains caused rivers to swell and several bridges were closed in the region of Piedmont.

The bad weather caused many rail services to be interrupted, including connections between Italy and Switzerland, which were suspended for around nine hours early on Thursday.

Ferry links were hit too, with several Sicilian islands and others in the Bay of Naples temporarily cut off from the mainland due to dangerous sailing conditions that were forecast to get worse. A group of 100 tourists travelling to the Alto Adige resort of Sesto Pusteria could not get to the destination because the road was closed and they had to find accomodation in other parts of the province.

Torrential rain contributed to Venice being inundated by Acqua alta, or high water, floods of 115cm above the usual level at one point on Thursday. Acqua alta in Venice frequently occurs when strong winds and rain combine with astronomical tides that are connected with the movements of the moon to raise water levels and cause flooding.