Blizzard blasts Italy, spreads hardship for quake survivors

ROME: Italy on Friday was gripped by plunging temperatures, icy winds and snow, creating hazardous conditions for many of those rendered homeless by last year’s central Italian earthquakes, as well as contributing to at least one accident in Rome.
Other parts of Europe are also facing severe winter weather conditions. In central Italy, homeless survivors of three earthquakes that struck the mountainous areas of the Marche, Lazio and Umbria regions in August and October last year woke to a blanket of snow, ice, and subzero temperatures.
A total of 11,286 displaced people are currently living in hotels, prefabricated modules, containers, tents, and local facilities such as gyms, according to Civil Protection Department figures.
Overnight temperatures reportedly plunged as low as -8 degrees in some parts of Sicily and -10 degrees in the southern Basilicata region, in what weather service called “the coldest 48 hours of the past few decades.” Meteorologists dubbed the storm the Epiphany 2017 Blizzard, a nod to the day’s national religious holiday, marking the arrival of the three kings in Bethlehem traditionally held to have visited the newborn Jesus Christ.
Snowfall continued on Friday along the Adriatic coast, the South, and Sicily, including at sea level. Icy winds whipped the south-central regions and the islands with unseasonably low temperatures hovering at 3-5 degrees in the North and the Tirrhenian coast, with the rest of the country’s boot experiencing temperatures of 0 or below.
The Interior Ministry reported traffic slowdowns on state roads in the southern Basilicata and Molise regions. Snowploughs were at work.
Train service along the Adriatic coast between the Marche region resort towns of Falconara and Senigallia was interrupted for two hours earlier in the day after strong winds broke an electrical cable.
In the southern town of Avellino, local media reported a homeless 44-year-old man froze to death in an abandoned shopping centre where he had been living for the past three years.
In the Marche town of Loreto, powerful north-east winds with gusts of up to 80 kilometres an hour tore several square metres off the lead covering of the dome of the Basilica of the Holy House, which was designed by Renaissance master Brunelleschi.
In Rome, a homeless woman living in a car parked in the Red Cross depot suffered burns to her hands after lighting a bottle filled with alcohol in an attempt to keep warm.
The ensuing blaze destroyed the car, a van, and two Red Cross ambulances. The incident took place at 9:45 pm on Thursday (2045 GMT), according to the Red Cross.
“Luckily the homeless lady did not suffer serious injuries and no one else was hurt,” Rome Red Cross President Debora Diodati said, calling the living conditions of the homeless in the capital “inhumane”. — dpa