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Italy severe weather: Nine die after fierce winds and heavy rain batter country

By Sky News

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St Mark’s Square in Venice was heavily flooded

(SKY NEWS) – At least nine people have been killed and four were seriously injured as severe storms battered northern Italy.

Strong winds and heavy rain raised Venice’s water level by 156cm (more than 5ft) – its highest in a decade.

Three-quarters of the lagoon city flooded during the exceptionally high tide. The level later receded.

Large swathes of the country have also experienced flooding, along with powerful winds up to 180kph (110mph).

Two people were killed when a tree hit their car near the town of Frosinone, south of Rome.

A woman lost her life when her home was engulfed by a mudslide in Dimaro in the Val di Sole valley, and a firefighter died after being hit by a tree in Alto Adige.

Falling trees also killed a man in the city of Terracina, south of the capital, and another in the Naples region.

A man died while kitesurfing near the town of Cattolica on the Adriatic coast after it was reported strong winds had blown his board into the rocks.

And a fisherman’s body has reportedly been recovered from Lake Levico in Trentino after he went to check on his boat.

Italian media said around 170 people, tourists and hotel staff, were stranded by heavy snowfall at the Stelvio Pass on the Swiss border.

The wild weather, caused by a convergence of high tides and strong winds, forced caused schools to close, while Rome and several other regions halted classes due to the weather.

Officials closed major tourist attractions in Rome, including the Colosseum and the Forum due to severe weather.

The breakwater walls in the seaside resort of Rapallo were destroyed by fierce winds, allowing in a surge of water that toppled yachts over and inflicted heavy damage on the port area.

Italy’s civil protection agency declared the highest level of alert in several regions, mainly in the north, where storms were expected to continue all day.

And the second highest level was issued for the central regions of Abruzzo and Lazio – which includes Rome.

Genoa’s airport closed as authorities cleared the runways of debris carried by the storms.

In the northern, canal-ringed city of Venice, rain-soaked tourists were barred from St Mark’s Square.

The waters have only topped 150cm five times before in recorded history.

Tourists and residents alike donned waterproof boots to navigate the streets.

Venice frequently floods when high winds push in water from the lagoon, but Monday’s level was the highest since December 2008, according to Venice statistics.

Mayor Luigi Brugnaro said a series of underwater barriers that are being built in the lagoon would have prevented the flooding.

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