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New alerts as foul weather concedes no truce

Tiber watch in Rome, Friuli snowed under

03 February, 18:58
New alerts as foul weather concedes no truce (By Denis Greenan).

(ANSA) - Rome, February 3 - Fresh alerts were issued Monday as torrential rain conceded no truce on a weather-battered Italy.

Rain and snow continued to pelt the whole of the country after a week-long onslaught that claimed six lives in southern Italy over the weekend.

Regional authorities in Lazio around Rome issued an alert on flooding and landslides, saying the soil was "saturated" around the Tiber, Aniene and Liri rivers.

The Tiber was under watch in the capital again as levels crept closer to its banks.

Rome Mayor Ignazio Marino wrote to Lazio Governor Nicola Zingaretti saying many homes showed "irreversible" damage. "The situation is absolutely critical and requires swift and structural action," Marino said.

Italy's biggest trade union, the CGIL, voiced "solidarity" with the northeastern Fruili Venezia-Giulia region, vowing to "do all we can to help the region return to normal" after massive snowfalls caused black-outs and the closure of schools.

Nobel Prize-winning playwright Dario Fo headed a list of writers, journalists and artists who petitioned the government to "take all necessary steps" to save the medieval walls of the ancient Etruscan town of Volterra near Pisa, part of which collapsed because of water infiltration Friday. The civil protection department said the bad weather would "lift a little and give Italians some respite on Tuesday and Thursday, but otherwise citizens should brace for more very unseasonal and quasi-extreme events." Three young women died in a head-on collision under a downpour in the province of Bari at the weekend, while two women and a six-year-old girl were drowned in Sicily. Two women and a girl were among seven aboard an automobile when the driver attempted to ford a rain-swollen stream early Sunday morning. Two families were evacuated in Palermo Monday after rocks fell down from a hillside.

Italy's Civil Protection agency declared a "critical red" alert Monday for much of northern Italy: Friuli, and the plain of Emilia and central Veneto.

Military pumps have been working since Sunday night to protect Rome's Fiumicino airport from flooding.

In the inhabited area around the airport, and especially in the coastal town of Fiumicino itself, authorities sent in more soldiers to cope with the emergency, raising their number to more than 50.

Heavy snow blocked roads in the mountains near the ski resort town of Cortina, while heavy rain caused temporary blackouts in Friuli-Venezia Giulia. Since January 30, 2,288 volunteers and 40 technicians have fought pitched battles against damage wrought by some of the worst winter weather in years.

On Friday, Romans took to the rooftops, while Venice was plunged under its deepest water this year and a town near Pisa was evacuated as rainstorms wreaked havoc and snow forced the closure of schools across Italy.

More heavy snow is expected in the central-eastern Alps, and rain across Italy is expected to continue for at least another week.