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

Pope To Create 13 New Cardinals In November

This photo taken and handout on August 26, 2020 by the Vatican Media shows Pope Francis speak during a live-streamed weekly private audience from the library of the apostolic palace in the Vatican during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Handout / VATICAN MEDIA / AFP) 

 

Pope Francis said Sunday he will create 13 new Catholic cardinals next month, including the first African-American “prince of the church” and a Franciscan preacher to the papal household.

Francis made the surprise announcement from his window overlooking Saint Peter’s Square at the end of his weekly Angelus, and said they would be appointed on November 28.

It will be “an unusual and possibly unprecedented ceremony, held during the midst of a continuing global pandemic”, Vatican expert Joshua McElwee said in the National Catholic Reporter.

The Vatican has been on high alert over the health of the pope, 83, after a flurry of cases within the tiny city state, and such a ceremony could present risks for elderly participants.

Nine of the new cardinals are under 80 years old, and therefore eligible to take part in the secret conclaves to elect the head of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, who is chosen from among them.

As well as having that key role, cardinals, who wear red hats and are known as “princes” of the Roman Catholic church, often also hold the highest administrative offices in the centuries-old institution.

This photo taken and handout by the Vatican Media on April 11, 2020 shows Pope Francis holding the Holy Book of Prayers during Easter’s Holy Saturday Vigil held behind closed doors at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican on April 11, 2020 during the lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. Handout / VATICAN MEDIA / AFP / VATICAN

 

The 13 include Washington Archbishop Wilton Gregory, 72, a progressive who will be the first African-American cardinal, and Italian priest Raniero Cantalamessa, 84, who has served as preacher to three papal households.

Italian bishop Marcello Semeraro, a Francis ally who took over as head of the Vatican’s saint-making department after his predecessor Cardinal Angelo Becciu was fired over embezzlement allegations, also gets a red hat.

So will Maltese Mario Grech, the head of the Synod of Bishops, a papal advisory body which Francis has been using to help him implement his pastoral renewal of the church.

Others include Antoine Kambanda, the Archbishop of Kigali in Rwanda; Jose Fuerte Advincula, the Archbishop of Capiz in the Philippines; and Celestino Aos Braco, the Archbishop of Santiago in Chile.

AFP

Morgues Overwhelmed As Italy’s COVID-19 Death Toll Tops 8,000

A general view shows coffins of the deceased stored in the church of San Giuseppe in Seriate, near Bergamo, Lombardy, on March 26, 2020, during the country's lockdown following the COVID-19 new coronavirus pandemic. Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP
A general view shows coffins of the deceased stored in the church of San Giuseppe in Seriate, near Bergamo, Lombardy, on March 26, 2020, during the country’s lockdown following the COVID-19 new coronavirus pandemic.
Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP

 

An overwhelmed Italian city at the heart of the coronavirus pandemic on Thursday sent more of its dead to nearby towns for cremation as the country’s world-leading toll topped 8,000.

Officials in Rome reported 662 new deaths and 6,153 infections — largely in line with the figures reported throughout the week.

The rise in daily deaths edged down to the lowest point in the crisis — 8.8 percent — while the infection rate stood at around eight percent for the fourth day running.

But the numbers are not dropping much further and Italians appear to be coming to terms with the realisation that two weeks of life under lockdown have not made the disease go away.

“Until we see this damn rate drop, we will have to continue making very hard sacrifices,” deputy civil protection service chief Agostino Miozzo said in reference to the ever-tightening containment measures.

Italy’s coronavirus death toll now stands at 8,165 — more than that of second-placed Spain and China, where the virus emerged in December, combined.

‘Crematoriums could not cope’

The endless flood of victims forced the city of Bergamo at Italy’s northern epicentre of the pandemic to send still more bodies to less burdened crematoriums in neighbouring towns.

An AFP photographer saw six camouflage green army trucks transporting coffins out of a Bergamo cemetery on Thursday.

“The large number of victims has meant that Bergamo’s crematorium could not cope on its own,” mayor Giorgio Gori said in a statement released to AFP.

The mayor said the city had also received 113 urns with the ashes of bodies that had been sent out for cremation earlier this week.

The bodies in the city of about 120,000 people are literally piling up.

A warehouse in the commune of Ponte San Pietro on Bergamo’s western outskirts held 35 freshly-made wooden coffins Thursday that were destined for cremation at a later date.

Still more coffins filled a barren church hall in the Seriate commune to Bergamo’s east.

A priest said a quiet prayer over the rows of coffins and a single red rose rested atop one in the otherwise empty room.

Anxious south

Yet the Italian government is just as anxious about the northern crisis spilling over into the far less developed south.

The head of the Campania region that includes Naples warned of a “dramatic explosion” of infections based on this week’s trends.

“The next 10 days will be hell for us,” governor Vincenzo De Luca said in an open letter to Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.

The number of officially registered deaths in Campania — Italy’s third-most-populous with nearly six million people — rose from 29 on Sunday to 83 on Thursday.

But no southern region has recorded more than 100 coronavirus fatalities to date.

Italy’s latest figures confirm that COVID-19 overwhelmingly kills the elderly and the sick.

Data from Italy’s first 5,542 fatalities show that 98.6 percent of the victims already suffered from at least one ailment or pre-existing condition.

Slightly over half had three or more other health problems when they died.

Only 29.1 percent of the victims were women. The disparity has been observed elsewhere and still puzzles doctors around the world.

The average age of victims was 78 — a fraction lower than the 78.8 reported last week based on the first 3,200 deaths.

But Italian virologist Roberto Burioni said the figures were “not particularly reliable” because the country was primarily testing people who already exhibited flu-like symptoms.

Italy’s death rate among the confirmed COVID-19 cases — 10.1 percent — was thus much higher than in countries with broad-based testing such as South Korea.

New Coronavirus Infections In Italy Drop To Lowest Point

 

Italy on Tuesday received more reassuring evidence that its coronavirus infection rate was slowing thanks to a painful lockdown that other nations are starting to apply at great economic cost.

Health officials across the ravaged Mediterranean country are poring over every new piece of data to see whether two weeks of bans and closures have made a dent in the crisis.

The harshest restrictions are theoretically due to expire on Wednesday evening — although the government is all but certain to extend them in some form for weeks or even months.

Italy’s 743 new deaths broke two days of successive declines that had taken the number down to 601 on Monday.

It set a world record of 793 fatalities on Saturday.

But officially registered new infections rose just eight percent — the same as Monday and the lowest level since Italy registered its first death on February 21.

It had been running at as high as 50 percent at the start of March.

“The measures we took two weeks ago are starting to have an effect,” civil protection service chief Angelo Borrelli told the daily La Repubblica before Tuesday’s toll came out.

He said more data over the next few days will help show “if the growth curve is really flattening.”

Few scientists expect Italy’s numbers — if they really are dropping — to follow a steady downward line.

The slowing contagion rate is at least offering a ray of hope in the midst of a global health emergency that is only deepening in other parts of Europe and the United States.

Scientists believe that countries such as Spain and France are following in Italy’s footsteps with a lag of a few weeks.

The numbers from the US are also similar to the track of those of Italy about 20 days ago.

Most other European nations and some US states have followed Italy’s example and imposed their own containment and social distancing measures designed to stop the spread.

Eyes On Italy

The data that Borrelli has gathered from Italy’s 22 regions are of crucial interest to global policy makers and medical experts.

Government are weighing the potential benefits of Italy’s measures against their damage to the economy and families’ livelihoods.

Big global banks think the business closures have plunged Italy into a deep recession that could be more severe than anything seen in decades.

But the country’s world-class health system is also straining and the government appears intent on helping it cope at any price.

The country’s daily deaths are also still higher than those officially recorded in China at the peak of its crisis in Wuhan’s Hubei province.

Both Italy’s and Hubei’s populations are around 60 million.

Italian officials are using the downward trend in new infections to double down on their insistence that people stay home at all times.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Tuesday cranked up fines for those out on the streets without a legitimate reason from the current 206 euros to 400-3,000 euros ($430-$3,225).

“Everyone must do their part,” Conte said in a televised address.

Conte added that he was “very confident” that Italians could resume their normal lives before the current general state of emergency expires on July 31.

Italy is perplexed over how it managed to become the global epicentre of a pandemic that began on the other side of the world.

Various Italian officials publically scoffed at early reports of a new killer disease rapidly spreading across northern stretches of the country.

Borrelli pointed to a Champions League match between Italy’s Atalanta and Spain’s Valencia football clubs in Milan on February 19 as a particularly egregious mistake.

It was attended by 40,000 fans who celebrated the local team’s win deep into the night.

“We can now say, with hindsight, that it was potentially a detonator,” Borrelli said of the match.

Virus Deaths Surge Past 13,000 As One Billion Confined To Homes

 

 

Nearly one billion people around the world were confined to their homes on Sunday, as the coronavirus death toll crossed 13,000 and factories were shut in worst-hit Italy after another single-day fatalities record.

The raging pandemic has forced lockdowns in 35 countries, disrupting lives, travel and businesses as governments scramble to shut borders and unleash hundreds of billions in emergency measures to avoid a widespread virus-fuelled economic meltdown.

More than 300,000 infections have been confirmed worldwide, with the situation increasingly grim in Italy where the death toll spiked to more than 4,800 — over a third of the global total.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced a closure of all non-essential factories in a late-night TV address on Saturday.

The Mediterranean nation of 60 million is now the epicentre of the disease, which first emerged in central China late last year before marching out to the rest of the world.

Italy has now reported more deaths than mainland China and third-placed Iran combined, and it has a death rate of 8.6 percent among confirmed COVID-19 infections — significantly higher than in most other countries.

Across the Atlantic, more than a third of Americans were adjusting to life in various phases of lockdown, including in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. Other parts of the United States are expected to ramp up restrictions as well.

“This is a time of shared national sacrifice, but also a time to treasure our loved ones,” US President Donald Trump said. “We’re going to have a great victory.”

As world leaders have vowed to fight the pandemic, the number of deaths and infections has continued to rise, especially in Europe — now the main coronavirus hotspot.

Spain reported a 32 percent spike in new deaths on Saturday, with Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez warning that the nation needs to prepare for “very hard days ahead”.

Fatalities in France jumped to 562 as police officials said helicopters and drones were being deployed to boost the government’s attempts to keep people in their homes.

The unprecedented measures to counter the spread of COVID-19 have shredded the international sports calendar, and pressure is mounting on Olympic organisers to postpone the 2020 Tokyo Games.

‘Months, not weeks’

The pandemic has bludgeoned global stock markets, and the United States — the world’s biggest economy — is preparing a huge emergency stimulus package that could top $1 trillion.

Millions have been ordered to stay home in the United States.

New Jersey on Saturday followed several states in telling residents to stay indoors.

And in neighbouring New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo warned that the disruption is likely to last for months, not weeks.

“I don’t think it’s possible in a city of this size for people to maintain it for much longer than three weeks before they start losing it,” Yona Corn, a 35-year-old singer, told AFP.

“I think there’s going to be a big mental health crisis. I worry about what’s going to happen to people.”

The US Food and Drug Administration also approved the first coronavirus test that can be conducted entirely at the point of care for a patient — and deliver results in 45 minutes.

Vice President Mike Pence and his wife tested negative for the coronavirus, his press secretary tweeted Saturday. The couple had taken the test after one of Pence’s staffers contracted the illness.

India curfew

The drastic confinement measures follow the example of China, where the lockdown of Hubei province appears to have paid off. Wuhan, Hubei’s capital, is where the virus was first detected.

France, Italy, Spain and other European countries have ordered people to stay at home, threatening fines in some cases, while Australia on Sunday told citizens to cancel domestic travel plans.

Britain has told pubs, restaurants and theatres to close and warned citizens to stop panic-buying.

China reported its first local infection in four days on Sunday. While the number of cases in the mainland has slumped dramatically since the crisis began, there are fears in Asia of “imported” cases from other hotspots like Europe.

Thailand on Sunday reported its highest daily rise in cases, taking its total to nearly 600, while India went into lockdown with a one-day nationwide “self-imposed curfew”.

While the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions are the hardest hit by the virus, the WHO has warned that young people are also vulnerable.

Accurate COVID-19 figures are difficult to reach because many of the victims suffered from other illnesses, and infection rates are uncertain because of a lack of testing in many countries.

The coronavirus has infected more than 1,000 across Africa too, where healthcare systems are limited and social distancing measures are difficult in crowded cities.

The Middle East also remains on high alert, where Iran — which suffered a major outbreak — reported 123 deaths on Saturday. But the Islamic Republic has refused to join the rest of the world in imposing heavy restrictions.

El Salvador joined several central and South American countries in imposing quarantine measures on Saturday, as Colombia announced its first coronavirus death.

Vatican To Hold Easter Celebrations Without Congregation Due To Virus

Pope Francis waves to the faithfuls as he delivers the Sunday Angelus prayer from his studio window overlooking Saint Peter’s Square, at the Vatican on March 01, 2020.
Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

 

The Vatican said Sunday that its traditional Easter week celebrations would be held this year without worshippers due to the coronavirus.

“Because of the current global public health emergency, all the liturgical celebrations of Holy Week will take place without the physical presence of the faithful,” the Prefecture of the Pontifical Household said in a statement.

The office is in charge of coordinating most of Pope Francis’s public schedule and his audiences with heads of state and other dignitaries.

The Vatican also said: “Until April 12, the general audiences and the Angelus presided over by the Holy Father will be available only in live streaming on the official Vatican News website.”

According to the latest tally late Saturday, there have been 1,441 deaths in Italy due to COVID-19, and more than 21,000 Italians have tested positive.

Italy is the hardest-hit European country so far in the pandemic.

Italy Orders 22mn Masks To Combat Coronavirus Spread

This photo taken on January 22, 2020 shows workers producing facemasks at a factory in Handan in China’s northern Hebei province.  STR / AFP

 

Italy is ordering 22 million surgical masks to help stop the spread of the new coronavirus, the civil protection agency said Sunday, as it announced the country’s death toll jumped to 366.

Over 15 million people were meanwhile adjusting to life in lockdown after the government shut whole swathes of the north, beginning with the worst-hit Lombardy region, home to the majority of Sunday’s 133 deaths.

READ ALSO: Italy Coronavirus Death Toll Shoots Up By 133 To 366

On Sunday the nation had the second-highest coronavirus toll in the world, after reporting a sharp jump in both deaths and the number of infected people, according to an AFP count.

The number of fatalities shot up by 133 to 366 Sunday, while the number of infections rose by a single-day record of 1,492 to hit 7,375, its civil protection agency said.

Italy Coronavirus Death Toll Shoots Up By 133 To 366

Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte (L) and Italy’s Public Education Minister Lucia Azzolina speak during a press conference held at Rome’s Chigi Palace, following the Ministers cabinet meeting dedicated to the coronavirus crisis, on March 4, 2020.   Tiziana FABI / AFP.

 

Italy’s death toll from the new coronavirus shot up by 133 to 366 Sunday while the number of infections rose by a single-day record of 1,492 to hit 7,375.

READ ALSO: Coronavirus Kills 233 In Italy, Sports Minister Demands Serie A Suspension

Italy has recorded the most deaths of any country outside China and the second-most COVID-19 infections in the world. The majority of the deaths were in the Lombardy region in northern Italy, the civil protection agency said.

Adekouroye, Oborududu To Compete At Ranking Series Tournament

 

Current world bronze medalist Odunayo Adekuoroye (57kg) and Commonwealth champion Blessing Oborududu (68kg), will be joined by three other elite female wrestlers to compete at the 2020 Matteo Pellicone Ranking Series tournament in the Italian city of Rome.

The others are multiple African and Commonwealth champion Aminat Adeniyi (62kg), as well as Blessing Onyebuchi (76kg) and Mercy Genesis (50kg), who both won gold and silver medals respectively at the inaugural World Beach Games in Doha, Qatar last year.

The wrestlers, under the guidance head coach of the female national team Purity Akuh, will depart Lagos on Tuesday, 14th January for the event scheduled for 15th to 18th January 2020.

In Rome, the five wrestlers, all gold medalists at the 12th African Games in Morocco, will be contesting for crucial ranking points which will enhance their seeding at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.

The tournament is also expected to put the wrestlers in good shape prior to the 2020 African Championships in Algeria early next month and the Africa/Oceania Olympic qualifier in El Jadida, Morocco, which will take place in March.

Former world number one, Adekuoroye is the only Nigerian wrestler that has qualified Tokyo Games. Oborududu was unfortunate not to seal her place at the 2019 World Championships in Nur Sultan, Kazakhstan.

However, the Nigeria Wrestling Federation is hopeful that more seven athletes will join her to Tokyo when the Olympic qualifier gets underway in Morocco.

After the tournament, the wrestlers will commence intensive camping ahead of the 2020 African Championships in Algiers slated for 4th to 9th February.

Italy Militant Guilty Of 1980 Bombing That Killed 85

 

 

A court in Italy has sentenced a former far-right extremist to life in prison for his part in a bombing at a railway station 40 years ago that killed 85 people.

Gilberto Cavallini, 67, a former member of the far-fight Armed Revolutionary Nucleus (NAR), was convicted for providing logistical support to those who carried out the attack in the northeastern city of Bologna.

On August 2 1980, a bomb exploded in the railway station’s waiting room, killing 85 people and injuring more than 200.

From the 1960s to the start of the 1980s, Italy was hit by more than 12,000 attacks in which 362 people died.

The most notorious act was the kidnapping and assassination of former prime minister Aldo Moro in 1978.

The attacks, aimed at destabilising the government in Rome within the context of the Cold War, were blamed on far-left groups and in other cases, such as in Bologna, on far-right militants.

Cavallini, who has confessed to a number of crimes including robberies and murder, has already spent 37 years in prison and was on day release, Italian media reported.

But he has said he is innocent of involvement in the Bologna attack.

“I’m in prison since September 1983, that’s more than 37 years. These are years in prison that I deserve… I deserve the convictions, but I don’t accept having to pay for what I have not done,” he told the court.

Two NAR members were sentenced to life in prison for the Bologna attack, and a third, who was a minor at the time, to 30 years.

Several others, including members of the security services, received lighter sentences of between seven and 10 years for obstruction of justice.

But some families of the victims believe that the real masterminds behind the attack remain unknown and unpunished.

Protesters Ask Roman Mayor Raggi To Resign

People take part in a peaceful protest march of members of Roman citizens committees, groups and associations that say care about the future of Rome and want to take charge themselves of the Italian capital, on October 26, 2019. ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP

 

Hundreds of people marched along the Tiber River on Saturday to demand Rome mayor Virginia Raggi resign over the state of the Italian capital.

“Raggi is turning the city into somewhere to run away from, instead of a city where people can live with dignity, work and build their future,” the Tutti per Rome (Everyone for Rome) organisation said ahead of the rally.

“The whole world pities us,” it said.

The march came a day after trade unions in Rome staged a general strike, with workers including bus drivers and garbage collectors taking a stand against the mayor and her ruling Five Star Movement administration.

The Eternal City’s streets are riddled with potholes, buses regularly catch fire and officials have warned the perennial garbage crisis constitutes a health risk, with rat control services working overtime as bins overflow near tourist sites, homes and schools.

Raggi became the capital’s first female mayor in 2016 by tapping into anger over corruption scandals — in particular the infiltration of crime families in the city’s waste management system.

In April this year she defended herself against accusations she had failed to turn the situation around, saying Rome was “under attack” from mobsters determined not to release their grip on a lucrative sector.

AFP

Five Suspended In Vatican Finance Probe

This photo taken from Via Della Conciliazione in Rome on October 2, 2019, shows the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Basilica reflected in a puddle following heavy rainfalls. Tiziana FABI / AFP

 

Five Vatican employees, including the number two at its anti-money laundering authority, have been suspended following police raids linked to a financial wrongdoing probe, Italian media said Wednesday.

There was no immediate comment from Vatican authorities to the report which came the day after prosecutors seized documents and electronic devices from he offices of two key Vatican departments, the Secretariat of State and the FIA financial authority.

The L’Espresso magazine published a police circular dated Wednesday showing photographs and the positions of the five “suspended as a precaution”.

The circular said Vatican guards should no longer grant access to the five, except for healthcare purposes.

One of those suspended, secretariat head of information and documentation Mgr Mauro Carlino, will continue to be granted residence in the same hotel complex which is home to Pope Francis.

Also named was FIA director Tommaso Di Ruzza. The FIA is an independent anti-money laundering authority designed to lend transparency to operations by the Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR) — which acts as the Vatican Bank.

The three others suspended hold administrative posts in the secretariat.

The Vatican had said Tuesday’s raids, authorised by prosecutor Gian Piero Milano and his deputy Alessandro Diddi, were “linked to the complaints presented at the beginning of last summer by the Institute for Works of Religion and the Office of the General Auditor, regarding financial transactions carried out over time.”

The Secretariat of State, the Catholic Church’s governing body, works closely with Pope Francis.

L’Espresso reported that the investigation was looking into “real estate operations abroad,” notably in London with the alleged participation of British companies.

The magazine said investigators were analysing transactions on bank accounts which receive sums of money donated to the Catholic Church.