Storms lash northern Italy as south swelters

A van and debris are seen piled up next to a bridge in stream after flash floods in Castelletto D'Orba, Italy, on Tuesday. — Reuters

CAPRIATA D'ORBA, Italy — A taxi driver has drowned in Italy during violent storms in the north which flooded towns and destroyed a bridge, the fire service said on Tuesday.

Farmers in the sweltering south meanwhile sounded the alarm over a drought expected to hit crops hard.

Over 100 people were evacuated on Monday across the Alessandria province in the Liguria region, while firefighters carried out 900 operations across the north from Milan to Genoa, as rising waters surged across roads and railways.

The taxi was swept away in the town of Capriata d'Orba, where a bridge had also given way as the river burst its banks.

"There's water everywhere", driver Fabrizio Torre, 52, told his bosses before his phone line cut out, media reported.

His passenger managed to escape the vehicle and survived by clinging to a tree, the reports said.

Two men, aged 61 and 84, were found alive by firefighters after going missing in another part of the storm-hit region.

Rescue workers also pulled young children, their grandmother and the family's dog out of a house submerged by a landslide.

The Po river rose by more than 3.5 meters (11 feet) over a 24-hour period, according to Coldiretti, Italy's main agricultural association.

Lake Maggiore was also nearing a historic level.

Italy has seen "over three storms a day since the start of autumn, 18 percent more than the same period last year," it said.

"And while the north is under rain clouds... in the south, record heat and lack of rainfall has triggered a drought alarm."

Italy was seeing "the effects of climate change, with exceptional weather events becoming the norm".

It noted a "clear tendency to tropicalization" in the Mediterranean country, which was experiencing "a crazy autumn that ranks in the top ten of the hottest since 1800, with a temperature of 1.27 degrees above the average".

The high frequency of violent events was expected to continue, with the north pummeled by rains while farmers in the south risk losing crops. — AFP