Storms cause chaos in parts of Europe

Violent gales, heavy rains and snowfall have pummeled swaths of Europe, leaving at least 12 people dead in Italy and Malta and cutting off roads and electricity, officials said on Tuesday. Huge storms in the Mediterranean have rocked Italy’s coastal regions.

The death toll in Italy rose to 10, from six on Monday, after a fireman was crushed by a falling tree during rescue operations in the alpine region of South Tyrol, near the Austrian border.

In the neighboring province of Trentino, a woman died after a mudslide submerged her home, and the body of a fisherman was found in a lake.

Elsewhere, a kite-surfer died near the Adriatic beach resort of Rimini after strong winds blew him violently against a cliff, the ANSA news agency said.

In Malta, rough seas claimed the lives of two people: a German woman who was diving near the island of Gozo, and an 85-year-old fisherman, who last year had received a prize for rescuing a drowning man.

A European Commission spokeswoman sent condolences to Italy and said Brussels was “ready to provide any support and aid that it can.”

Sea storms in Italy’s north-western Liguria region forced the closure of Genoa airport and badly damaged an access road to the tourist resort of Portofino, leaving it cut off from the rest of the region. In Genova, along the Italian Riviera, 92-metre (302-foot) motor yacht Queen Miri (formerly Delma) and 52-metre (171-foot) motor yacht Harmony (formerly Toinie) collided after breaking free from their lines.

Rapallo, a nearby port, was devastated by waves of up to 10 meters which wrecked nearly 200 yachts, including one belonging to Silvio Berlusconi’s son, Piersilvio, Corriere della Sera daily reported.

Also on Tuesday, tens of thousands of households in northern Italy were left without electricity and schools were closed as a precaution in several cities, including Rome, Naples and Venice.

The city of Venice faced its worst flooding in 10 years on Monday. The water caused extensive damage, including to two Joan Miro tapestries due to go on display in an upcoming exhibition.

Severe weather also hit Spain, with 30,000 households on the island of Menorca plunged into darkness for 48 hours after a tornado hit over the weekend.

An Arctic air mass over northern Spain produced a wintry mix of rain and snow, affecting motorways and rail service in the regions of Asturias and Galicia. Members of the armed forces were deployed to help emergency crews remove downed powers lines and trees.

Meanwhile, in south-central France, more than 1,000 people were taken into emergency accommodation overnight after motorists were stranded on snow-bound roads, the departments of Loire and Haute-Loire said.

In Haute-Loire, 150 police, troops and firefighters were deployed to aid motorists still stuck on the roads on Tuesday morning.

Some 195,000 homes across the country lost power in the storms, Electricity Network Company Enedis said.

To the east, rain and 100-kilometre-per-hour winds cut off Croatian islands in the Adriatic, closing ferry lines, state broadcaster HRT reported.

Several coastal roads were also closed due to rainfall, which was at a record level in some areas. In Delnice, in western Croatia, 156 litres of water per square metre were measured within 24 hours.

In Slovenia, the storm knocked down trees and caused minor flooding in places. A red alert remains in some places due to the swelling Drava river, the STA news agency said.

In southern Austria, some 10,000 households were without electricity in the province of Carinthia. In addition, emergency services were working to protect communities from floods after extreme rainfall over the past few days.

Europe wasn’t all miserable, however. Berlin was unseasonably warm at 19 degrees Celsius, while Warsaw saw the temperature hover around 21. Bucharest was balmy at 23 degrees.