Friday, 22 November 2013

Despatches from Storm-battered Italy

In Tuscany, on the Mediterranean coast, you don't expect to wake up to this in November. Drifts of the white stuff in the olive groves below the terrace, and temperatures of about 5 degrees.


Our neighbours are still picking olives.  The mountains behind us, glimpsed through the clouds, were also white - and this time not with marble dust.

Photo Alexandra Sack
The storms had kept us awake all night - thunder and lightning, wind, apocalyptic rain and the percussion of hailstones.  And this is what the white drifts are - hailstones a foot deep like frozen snow.  But however horrible the weather here has been (and it's been 'bruttissimo'!) it's nothing to the storm that hit Sardinia three days ago during the night. 453 millimetres of rain (almost 20 inches) fell in two hours, creating some of the most terrible flash floods ever seen in Europe.  The island is devastated - roads and bridges and whole villages washed away and many dead.  One family died instantly as a wall of mud, debris and water, burst through their ground floor apartment without warning. Towns and cities were flooded 2 or 3 metres deep in mud and water.  Thousands are homeless.



Now the political fall-out has begun.  The government have been accused of 'forgetting' Sardinia. Almost its only income is from tourism, but the tourist season lasts only 3 months of the year now, perhaps four in the warmer south of the island.  For the rest of the year, Sardinians are out of work. They say that there has been no investment in the island - no money put into the infrastructure and that this neglect has contributed to the disaster.  Italian football star Gigi Riva, who lives on the island, said in a newspaper articles (La Nazione) that he believes that Sardinia has been abandoned by the state; 'poi e' come se la Sardegna non esistesse piu'.   It is all very sad. 

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