Sicily heatwave brings power cuts, water shortages

AFP , Monday 24 Jul 2023

Italian officials held crisis talks Monday on how to manage blackouts in Sicily that have left hundreds of thousands of people without electricity and water for days during a searing heatwave.

Sicily Italy
Tourists suffer from heat as they visit Palermo, Sicily, during a hot day with temperatures over 40 degrees Celsius, Sunday, July 16, 2023. AP


Civil protection minister Nello Musumeci led the meeting in Catania, where the local mayor said the city had been "brought to its knees" by rolling power cuts.

A heatwave that baked swathes of southern Europe last week has yet to ease in Sicily, where the local civil protection agency reported a temperature of 47.6 degrees Celsius in Catania on Monday.

"We are paying on the one hand for climate change, to which we should have been paying more attention for several years, and on the other for infrastructure that does not appear entirely adequate to the new context," Musumeci said, according to Italian news agencies.

Catania and surrounding areas have suffered power cuts since Thursday, with more than 500,000 people affected, a spokesman for municipality told AFP.

In a statement on Sunday, supplier e-distribuzione, the distribution arm of energy giant Enel, blamed heat damage to underground cables.

"We find ourselves operating in conditions of exceptional climatic emergency," where the temperature of the asphalt on roads has reached 50 degrees, it said.

"This, if added to the high humidity, does not allow the correct dissipation of heat with consequent damage to the underground cables."

It said it was working to boost capacity and had deployed hundreds of technicians to address the issue.

The power cuts have stopped water pumps from operating, with between 200,000 and 300,000 people affected, although the situation was resolved on Monday morning, water firm Sidra said.

Local authorities have set up air conditioned rooms for the elderly and other vulnerable people, including the homeless, and have urged people to moderate their use of air conditioners at home to avoid exacerbating the issue.

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