Italy Landslide Death Toll Rises To 11

 

Rescuers on Thursday pulled another three bodies from the wreckage caused by a landslide on the Italian island of Ischia, bringing the death toll to 11, with one woman still missing.

A wave of mud and debris swept through the small town of Casamicciola Terme on Saturday following heavy rains, destroying houses and sweeping cars to the sea.

The fire service announced that the bodies of two men and a woman had been found, and “the number of confirmed victims rises to 11”.

“The search continues for the last woman” still missing, it wrote on Twitter.

It emerged on Monday that former mayor Giuseppe Conte had called four days before the landslide struck for at-risk areas to be evacuated.

He sent 23 emails to authorities, but “nobody answered me,” he told the Corriere della Sera.

Geologist Aniello Di Iorio told the newspaper there were “high risks” of further landslides on parts of Ischia, a lush island near Capri that is thronged with tourists in summer.

Experts said the disaster was caused by a fatal mix of deforestation, overdevelopment and a lack of mitigation strategies.

Italy Declares State Of Emergency After Deadly Landslide

The Italian Flag.

 

Italy declared a state of emergency on the southern island of Ischia on Sunday after a landslide killed at least seven people and left several others missing.

A wave of mud and debris crashed through the small town of Casamicciola Terme on Saturday morning, engulfing at least one house and sweeping cars down to the sea, local media and emergency services said.

“The toll of victims from the landslide in Casamicciola has risen to seven dead, while five are missing,” Naples city prefect Claudio Palomba announced late Sunday.

A first tranche of two million euros ($2 million) of relief funds was released at the end of an emergency cabinet meeting, which declared the state of emergency, said Minister for Civil Protection Nello Musumeci.

Italian media had earlier reported that four bodies had been found by Sunday afternoon.

More than 200 rescuers were still searching for missing people, while hundreds of volunteers, up to their knees in mud, were busy cleaning the town’s streets.

The rescue effort had been hampered by rain and high winds, which also delayed ferries bringing reinforcements from the mainland.

“It’s a situation that hurts us, if only for the people who disappeared under the mountain. Here it’s an island and even if we don’t really know everyone, it’s almost that,” Salvatore Lorini, 45, told AFP.

“The mountain came down, there was devastation of shops, cars, hotels and that was already happening nine years ago. Now I am cleaning my mother-in-law’s shop,” he said.

Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi had earlier warned there were people trapped in the mud, saying it was a “very serious” situation.

 Complex rescue operation 

Heavy rain sent torrents of mud through the streets of Casamicciola Terme, a spa resort of 8,000 inhabitants on the north of Ischia, a lush island near Capri that is thronged with tourists in summer.

Trees were upturned and cars left battered on the side of the road or in the water, according to AFP journalists.

Boulders were scattered around as excavators sought to free up access to homes, cars and shops.

“If I could, I would leave Casamicciola because I now struggle to live there, even if my house survived the tremor, the flooding,” 64-year-old Iacono Maria told AFP.

Pope Francis said he was praying for the victims, “those who suffer and all those who have contributed to the rescue” in his Angelus prayer on Sunday.

The fire service said earlier one house had been swamped by the mud and two people had been rescued from a car swept into the sea.

In the worst-affected area of the town, at least 30 families were trapped in their homes without water or electricity, with mud and debris blocking the road, ANSA news agency reported.

Officials had said they expected to evacuate and find temporary homes for between 150 and 200 people.

Local authorities called on Ischia residents to stay inside to avoid hindering the rescue operation.

An “exponential” growth of infrastructure sparked by mass tourism ended up “stifling all the natural elements of the land and covering everything with cement”, geologist Mario Tozzi wrote in La Stampa newspaper.

Casamicciola Terme was hit by an earthquake in 2017, in which two people died. It was completely destroyed by a much more powerful tremor at the end of the 19th century.

The devastation in Ischia comes just weeks after 11 people died in heavy rain and flooding in the central Italian region of Marche.

AFP

Osimhen Scores Ninth League Goal As Napoli Move 11 Points Clear 

Napoli’s Victor Osimhen celebrates at the end of the Italian Serie A football match between Napoli and Udinese on November 12, 2022, at the Diego-Maradona Stadium in Naples. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

 

Nigeria’s Victor Osimhen scored his ninth league goal of the campaign to help Napoli claim a 3-2 win over Udinese on Saturday. 

Luciano Spalletti’s side were cruising to the three points after Osimhen, Piotr Zielinski and Eljif Elmas gave them a three-goal lead just before the hour mark.

But quickfire strikes from Ilija Nestorovski and Lazar Samardzic left the 50,000 fans at the Stadio Maradona biting their fingernails in the final eight minutes.

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Napoli’s Eljif Elmas (C) celebrates after scoring his side’s third goal during the Italian Serie A match between Napoli and Udinese on November 12, 2022, at the Diego-Maradona Stadium in Naples. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

 

Napoli held on and extended their lead at the top of the table on AC Milan and Lazio, who both play on Sunday.

Udinese stay eighth after failing to win for the seventh straight match.

AFP

Three Migrants Jump Into Sea In Italy Port Standoff

The Italian Flag.

 

Three migrants rescued from the Mediterranean and brought to a Sicilian port but then banned from disembarking jumped into the sea in desperation Monday, trapped in a standoff between charity ships and Italy’s new hard-right government.

The men were quickly pulled from the water near the Geo Barents ship, according to operator Doctors Without Borders (MSF), as it was docked in Catania with more than 200 people on board.

It is one of a handful of charity vessels that save migrants at risk of drowning during the perilous crossing from North Africa to Europe, and which are now in the crosshairs of new Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s government.

Shortly after the men jumped — apparently one had been trying to save the other two — a dozen other migrants standing on the deck of the ship chanted “Help us”, an AFP journalist witnessed.

After days at sea, Geo Barents docked in Catania this weekend and Italian authorities allowed 357 people to disembark, including children, while refusing entry to 215 others.

Nearby, German-flagged rescue ship Humanity 1 disembarked 144 people, but still has 35 adult male migrants onboard who were similarly refused permission to go ashore.

A government decree issued Friday said Humanity 1 was only allowed into an Italian port for the time it took to help those in “emergency conditions”.

Italy’s two-week-old government, led by Meloni’s far-right Brothers of Italy party and comprising Matteo Salvini’s anti-immigration League, has vowed to stop the tens of thousands of migrants who arrive on the country’s shores each year.

Most come in overcrowded, leaky boats and many die as they try to reach Europe. But Italy has long complained that the EU does not share the burden of managing the problem.

Salvini, who is currently on trial for blocking migrant boats when he was interior minister in 2019, said Monday the arrivals must be stopped.

“They are organised trips, increasingly dangerous, which finance weapons and drugs. They must be cut off,” the now deputy prime minister tweeted.

Even as tensions rose in Catania, however, more than 500 people were rescued by Italian authorities and disembarked in Sicily, the head of the Syracuse administration told AFP.

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Psychological stress 

One of the 215 left onboard Geo Barents was later evacuated by ambulance after suffering “acute abdominal pain”, MSF said on Monday, bringing the total to 214.

Antonio Nicita, a senator with the centre-left Democratic Party, said he had visited the ship and found “a lot of suffering”.

“Many people undressed in front of us to show their scabies infection,” he told AFP.

“Their situation, their level of psychological stress is very, very high,” added Riccardo Gatti, the chief of search and rescue at MSF.

“The ship has its limitations in terms of medical assistance: a ship is like an ambulance and people are still in the ambulance,” he said.

The charity SOS Humanity, which operates the Humanity 1 ship, said authorities decided after a “brief” medical exam that the 35 men left onboard its vessel were “healthy” and so need not disembark.

But it said no translator attended and there was no psychological evaluation, and has launched legal action against the Italian authorities for selecting those who have the right to land in Italy.

“If a port is secure, then it’s secure for everybody,” SOS Humanity lawyer Riccardo Campochiaro told AFP.

The ship’s captain, Joachim Ebeling, has defied the demand to leave the port, telling reporters on Monday: “I’m not going anywhere with these people onboard.”

International obligations 

UN agencies the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency and the International Organization for Migration all urged the disembarkation of the migrants “without delay”.

“Italy’s efforts in the disembarkation of some 400 people… are welcomed. However, a solution is urgently needed for all remaining survivors,” a joint statement said.

They referred also to two other migrant rescue ships, the Ocean Viking and Rise Above, which have been waiting off Sicily with around 230 and 90 migrants respectively.

Media reports late Monday said Rise Above had been assigned a port in southern Italy.

A group of civil society organisations, including ActionAid International, Human Rights Watch and the Norwegian Refugee Council, echoed the call for a rapid disembarkation.

Amnesty International has accused Italy of “violating its international obligations”, saying “the law of the sea is clear; a rescue ends when all those rescued are disembarked in a place of safety”.

AFP

Arsenal’s Mari To Undergo Surgery After Italy Knife Attack

Mari is on loan in Italy. Photo: [email protected]

 

Pablo Mari is to undergo surgery Friday for injuries sustained during a deadly knife attack in an Italian supermarket, Serie A club Monza said.

The 29-year-old defender, on loan from Arsenal this summer, was hospitalised Thursday night after being wounded in the back, but was conscious and able to speak.

He will be operated on later Friday, AC Monza told AFP, confirming press reports.
Mari was shopping with his wife and son in a Carrefour supermarket in Assago, on the outskirts of Milan in northern Italy, when a man apparently suffering from psychological problems grabbed a knife from a shelf and began attacking people.

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One of the supermarket’s employees was killed and four other people were hurt.
Police arrested the alleged attacker, a 46-year-old Italian.

In a tweet, Arsenal said its thoughts were with Mari and the other victims, adding: “We have been in contact with Pablo’s agent who has told us he’s in hospital and is not seriously hurt”.

Monza chief executive Adriano Galliani, in a message tweeted by the club, said: “Dear Pablo, we are all close to you and your family, we wish you well, keep fighting as you know how to do, you are a warrior and you will get well soon.”

Giorgia Meloni Takes Over As Italy’s First Woman PM

Italy’s new prime minister, Giorgia Meloni reacts during the cabinet minister bell handover ceremony at Palazzo Chigi in Rome on October 23, 2022. (Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP)

 

Giorgia Meloni officially took over Sunday as Italy’s first woman prime minister at the helm of the country’s most right-wing government since World War II.

Four weeks after her post-fascist Brothers of Italy party won general elections, Meloni joined outgoing premier Mario Draghi for a handover ceremony at Chigi Palace, the prime minister’s seat in Rome.

After almost 90 minutes of private talks, the pair smiled broadly as Draghi, a former European Central Bank chief, symbolically handed over to Meloni a small bell used in cabinet debates.

Italy’s new Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni (Rear C) rings the bell as she presides over her government’s first Cabinet meeting on October 23, 2022 at Palazzo Chigi in Rome.  AFP

 

She will later hold her first meeting of ministers comprising members of her party and its allies, former premier Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party and Matteo Salvini’s far-right League.

The Eurosceptic, anti-immigration coalition takes over the eurozone’s third-largest economy at a time of soaring inflation, an energy crisis and war in Ukraine.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Saturday she had a “good first call” with Meloni, adding: “I count on and look forward to constructive cooperation with the new government on the challenges we face together.”

Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany later said he looked forward to “working closely together with Italy in EU, NATO and G7” — a sentiment Meloni reflected in responses to congratulatory messages on Twitter.

Italy’s La Stampa daily spoke of a “European beginning” on its front page on Sunday. “Meloni: down to work, with pride”, headlined the Corriere Della Sera.

Reassuring ministers 

On Saturday, Meloni and her 24 ministers were sworn in before President Sergio Mattarella at the Quirinal Palace in Rome, once home to popes and kings of Italy.

She declared her intention to get “straight to work”.

Meloni’s ministerial experience is limited to three years as youth minister under Berlusconi’s 2008-2011 government, while her party has never held power.

Brothers of Italy won just four percent of the vote in the 2018 elections but secured a historic 26 percent of the vote in the September 25 poll.

Meloni was a fan of the late dictator, Benito Mussolini, as a teenager but has managed to distance her party from its neo-fascist roots.

She presents herself as a straight-talking “Christian mother”, a defender of traditional values and Italy’s national interests, particularly in Brussels.

Her party no longer wants Italy to leave the EU’s single currency but remains strongly Eurosceptic, as is the League, which won nine percent in the elections.

However, she named committed European Antonio Tajani, a former president of the European Parliament who co-founded Forza Italia with Berlusconi, as foreign minister and deputy prime minister.

In an attempt to reassure investors that Italy’s debt-laden economy was safe in her hands, Meloni also appointed Giancarlo Giorgetti as economy minister.

Giorgetti, who served as minister of economic development under Draghi, is considered one of the more moderate, pro-Europe members of Salvini’s League.

Salvini will serve as deputy prime minister and minister of infrastructure and transport.

He had wanted the role of interior minister, a post he previously held between 2018 and 2019. That went instead to a technocrat, Rome prefect Matteo Piantedosi.

Coalition tensions

The talks to form a government had been overshadowed by disagreements within Meloni’s coalition on one of the biggest issues facing Europe — the response to Russia’s war in Ukraine.

She was forced to clarify her strong support for Kyiv and EU sanctions against Moscow after Berlusconi was recorded defending his old friend President Vladimir Putin.

Salvini, too, is a long-time fan of Putin and has criticised Western sanctions imposed on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

On Saturday Meloni again affirmed her desire to work with NATO, which she described as “more than a military alliance: a bulwark of common values we’ll never stop standing for”.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg and US President Joe Biden sent their congratulations, as did Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky.

Meloni said Italy would “always be on the side of the brave people of Ukraine”.

But the tensions with her allies reinforce doubts as to how long she can keep her coalition together, in a country that has had almost 70 governments since 1946.

Shortly after the handover ceremony, Pope Francis noted the start of the new government in his weekly Angelus and offered his prayers for “unity and peace in Italy”.

AFP

Far-Right Meloni Named Italy’s First Woman PM

President of the Italian party Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy) Giorgia Meloni next to former Prime Minister and leader of Forza Italia (FI) party Silvio Berlusconi (L), addresses the media after a meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella for the first round of formal political consultations for new government at the Quirinale Palace in Rome on October 21, 2022. (Photo by ETTORE FERRARI / ANSA / AFP) / Italy OUT / ITALY OUT

 

 

Far-right leader Giorgia Meloni was named Italian prime minister Friday, becoming the first woman to head a government in Italy.

Her post-fascist Brothers of Italy party — Eurosceptic and anti-immigration — won September 25 legislative polls but needs outside support to form a government.

Meloni’s appointment is an historic event for the eurozone’s third largest economy and for Brothers of Italy, which has never been in government.

The 45-year-old from Rome will now name her ministers who will be sworn in on Saturday in front of President Sergio Mattarella.

Shortly after she was named, Meloni appointed Giancarlo Giorgetti as economy minister, who served under the previous government of Mario Draghi.

Giorgetti, a former minister of economic development, is considered one of the more moderate, pro-Europe members of Matteo Salvini’s far-right League party.

Her Brothers of Italy party won 26 percent of the vote last month, compared to eight and nine percent respectively for her allies Forza Italia and the far-right League.

– Unity concerns –
The consultations to cobble a government had been overshadowed by disagreements over Meloni’s ardent support for Ukraine since the Russian invasion, with her two would-be coalition partners who are both considered close to Moscow.

A recording was leaked during the week in which Italy’s former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi — who heads Forza Italia — talks about his warm ties with Moscow and appeared to blame the war in Ukraine on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Her other coalition partner, Salvini, is a long-time fan of Russian President Vladimir Putin and has criticised Western sanctions on Russia.

Despite her Eurosceptic stance, Meloni has been firm about her support for Ukraine, in line with the rest of the European Union and the United States.

“I intend to lead a government with a clear and unequivocal foreign policy line,” she has said. “Italy is fully, and with its head held high, part of Europe and the Atlantic Alliance.”

“Anyone who does not agree with this cornerstone will not be able to be part of the government, even at the cost of not forming a government,” Meloni has warned.

Berlusconi, 86, has said that his personal and political position “do not deviate from that of the Italian government (and) the European Union” on Ukraine.

But the tensions add to concerns that Meloni’s coalition, held together by the need for a parliamentary majority, will struggle to maintain unity.

Berlusconi’s allies insist his comments in the recording, from a meeting with lawmakers earlier this week, were taken out of context.

The billionaire media mogul described a rekindling of relations with long-time friend Putin, who he said sent him 20 bottles of vodka and a “very sweet letter” for his birthday.

– Challenges ahead –
Meloni’s coalition wants to renegotiate Italy’s part of the EU’s post-Covid recovery fund, arguing the almost 200 billion euros ($193 billion) it expects to receive should take into account the current energy crisis, exacerbated by Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine which has hit the supplies of Russian gas to Europe.

But the funds are tied to a series of reforms only just begun by Draghi, and analysts say she has limited room for manoeuvre.

Meloni had campaigned on a platform of “God, country and family”, sparking fears of a regression on rights in the Catholic-majority country.

She has distanced herself from her party’s neo-fascist past — and her own, after praising dictator Benito Mussolini as a teenager — and presented herself as a straight-talking but unthreatening leader.

Inflation in Italy rose to 8.9 percent in September over the previous year threatening to put the country in recession next year.

The margin for manoeuvre is limited given that its colossal debt represents 150 percent of Gross Domestic Product, the highest in the eurozone after Greece.

Draghi used his last day on the European stage Friday to warn both his fellow leaders and Meloni that a united Europe should remain their “guiding star”.

Draghi said everyone looked at “the EU as a source of security, stability and peace,” adding: “We have to keep this in mind as a guiding star for the future, especially in troubled times like these.”

Italy To Face England In Euro 2024 Qualifying

The Euro 2024 qualifying draw ceremony. Credit: Kai Pfaffenbach/AFP

 

Reigning champions Italy were drawn on Sunday to face England, the team they beat in the final at Wembley last year, and Ukraine in qualifying for the 2024 European Championship.

Euro 2024, hosted by Germany, will be Italy’s chance to regain some pride after they failed to qualify for the World Cup finals which kick off in Qatar in six weeks’ time.

READ ALSO: Verstappen Retains F1 World Championship After Dramatic Japan GP

France, who will defend their world title in Qatar, were drawn to face the Netherlands and the Republic of Ireland in Group B while Spain’s opponents in Group A will include Scotland and Erling Haaland’s Norway.

Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo go into Group J including Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iceland.

Thomas Boecker/AFP.

 

Croatia, the losing World Cup finalists in 2018, are in Group D with World Cup qualifiers Wales as well as Turkey.

Denmark, another team going to Qatar, have Finland, Slovenia and Northern Ireland among the teams in their Group H.

Russia is excluded from the competition because of its invasion of Ukraine.

As hosts, three-time European champions Germany qualify automatically.

The Euro 2024 finals will be played in 10 German cities from June 14 to July 14.

Russia Suspends Gas To Italy After ‘Problem’ In Austria

In this file photo, Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting on the situation in the oil and gas sector at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, on April 14, 2022. Mikhail Klimentyev / Sputnik / AFP

 

Russia’s Gazprom has suspended gas deliveries to Italy’s Eni, blaming a transport problem in Austria, the Italian energy giant said on Saturday.

“Gazprom told us that it was not able to confirm the delivery of the volumes demanded for today, citing the impossibility of gas transport through Austria,” Eni said in a statement.

As a result, “Russian gas flows to Eni via the Tarvisio entry point will be naught”, it said.

Most of Russian gas delivered to Italy passes via Ukraine through the Trans Austria Gas Pipeline (TAG), to Tarvisio in northern Italy on the border with Austria.

Gazprom later in the day said in a statement that the transportation of Russian gas through Austria had been suspended “due to the refusal of the Austrian operator to confirm the transport nominations”.

“The reason is related to the regulatory changes that took place in Austria at the end of September,” it added.

“Gazprom is working on solving the problem together with Italian buyers.”

In Austria, regulatory authority E-Control said the new rules, which entered into force on Saturday, had been “known to all market actors for months”.

It said it expected “all to conform and take the necessary measures to fulfil their obligations”.

The problems were linked to “contractual details” linked to the transit of gas towards Italy, it said on Twitter.

Before the war in Ukraine, Italy imported 95 percent of the gas it consumes — about 45 percent of which came from Russia.

Outgoing Prime Minister Mario Draghi has signed new deals with other gas producers to reduce Italy’s reliance on Russia, lowered to 25 percent as of June, while accelerating a shift towards renewable energies.

Meloni Wins Poll, Becomes Italy’s First Female Prime Minister

Giorgia Meloni, leader of Fratelli d’Italia, won the snap elections, with a percentage above 26 %, on 26 September 2022. (Photo by Riccardo Fabi/NurPhoto)

 

From a teenage activist who praised Mussolini to favourite to become Italy’s first woman prime minister, Giorgia Meloni has had quite a journey, leading her far-right party to the brink of power.

Meloni’s Brothers of Italy came top in Sunday’s general elections, and her right-wing coalition looks set to secure a majority in both houses of parliament.

Often intense and combative as she rails against the European Union, mass immigration, and “LGBT lobbies”, the 45-year-old has swept up disaffected voters and built a powerful personal brand.

“I am Giorgia, I am a woman, I am a mother, I am Italian, I am Christian,” she declared at a 2019 rally in Rome.

Brothers of Italy grew out of the country’s post-fascist movement, but Meloni has sought to distance herself from the past while refusing to renounce it entirely.

She remains deeply divisive, not least over her Catholic family values that many fear will see a step backward on rights such as abortion.

Meloni vowed Monday to unite the country, saying she would govern for “all Italians”.

“It is a time of responsibility,” she said, adding that “Italy has chosen us, and we will not betray her.”

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Ready to govern

Born in Rome on January 15, 1977, Meloni was brought up in the working-class neighbourhood of Garbatella by her mother, after her father left them.

She has long been involved in politics — becoming the youngest minister in post-war Italian history at 31 — and co-founded Brothers of Italy in 2012.

In the 2018 general elections, her party secured just four percent of the vote but looked set to secure 26 percent in Sunday’s general elections.

That put Meloni ahead of not just her rivals but also her coalition allies, Matteo Salvini’s anti-immigration League and Forza Italia’s Silvio Berlusconi, in whose government she served in 2008.

Meloni has benefited from being the only party in opposition for the past 18 months, after choosing to stay out of outgoing Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s national unity government.

At the same time, she has sought to reassure those who question her lack of experience, with her slogan “Ready” adorning billboards up and down the country.

Wary of Italy’s huge debt, she has emphasised fiscal prudence, despite her coalition’s call for tax cuts and higher social spending.

Her stance on Europe has moderated over the years — she no longer wants Italy to leave the EU’s single currency and has strongly backed the bloc’s sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine war.

However, she says Rome must stand up more for its national interests and has backed Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in his battles with Brussels.

Neo-fascist past

Meloni was a teenage activist with the youth wing of the Italian Social Movement (MSI), formed by supporters of fascist dictator Benito Mussolini after World War II.

At 19, campaigning for the far-right National Alliance, she told French television that “Mussolini was a good politician, in that everything he did, he did for Italy”.

After being elected an MP for National Alliance in 2006, she shifted her tone, saying the dictator had made “mistakes”, notably the racial laws, his authoritarianism, and entering World War II on the side of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany.

Her party takes its name from the first line of Italy’s national anthem and its logo includes the same flame used by MSI, in the green, white and red of the country’s flag.

She has refused calls to change the logo, insisting the flame has “nothing to do with fascism” — and blaming talk to the contrary on “the left”.

She insists that within her party “there is no room for nostalgic attitudes”.

On abortion, she says she has no plans to change the law, which allows terminations but permits doctors to refuse to carry them out.

However, she says she wants to “give to women who think abortion is their only choice the right to make a different choice”.

Meloni has a daughter, born in 2016, with her TV journalist partner, and is a huge fan of “Lord of the Rings”.

AFP

Italy Storms Kill 10 Sparking Pre-Vote Climate Change Debate

At least 10 people died and four were missing after violent storms lashed central Italy, reports said Friday, pushing the issue of climate change up the agenda the week before elections.

Water swept through towns and villages, turning streets into rivers after about 400 millimetres (16 inches) of rain reportedly fell in two hours.

Emergency services initially put the death toll at seven but this rose mid-morning to 10, according to the AGI news agency, citing local authorities.

One of those earlier reported missing was a child travelling in a car. The mother was rescued but the child was washed away by the floodwaters, AGI said.

The fire service said it had 300 people working on the floods and “dozens of people” had been saved overnight after they took refuge on roofs of houses and in trees.

The worst hit area was Ancona, a port city on the Adriatic, where several areas were without electricity or telephone connections. Schools were closed Friday in the affected zones.

The streets of the port town of Senigallia, a little up the coast, were turned into rivers, while aerial footage of the inland hamlet of Pianello di Ostra showed streets caked with mud and cars piled up after being swept away.

The tragedy occurs just days before September 25 general elections, and condolences for those affected poured in from across the political spectrum.

Frontrunner Giorgia Meloni, whose far-right Brothers of Italy party is hoping to become prime minister, offered “full solidarity” with those affected.

The president of the region surrounding Ancona, Marche, is a member of her party.

Extreme climate events

The flooding came after a drought in Italy, and many have drawn the link with climate change — a subject which has taken a back seat during the election campaign.

“How can you think that the fight against climate change is not the first priority?” said Meloni’s main rival, Enrico Letta, head of the centre-left Democratic Party.

He said he was “stunned and speechless” at the news from Marche, saying he was suspending campaigning in the region.

Francesco Rocca, president of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said its teams were heading to help.

“Very concerned by the growth of extreme weather events,” he said on Twitter.

This summer’s drought, the worst in 70 years, drained the Po River, Italy’s largest water reservoir.

The baking heat has in recent weeks been followed by storms, the water flooding land rendered hard as concrete.

In July, 11 people were killed when a section of Italy’s biggest Alpine glacier gave way, in a disaster officials blamed on climate change.

The EU’s economy commissioner, Paolo Gentiloni, a former Italian premier, said he shed tears for the victims of the floods in Marche.

“Italy and Europe must take climate change seriously,” he tweeted.

AFP