ROME: The death toll from fierce storms battering Italy has risen to 10, civil protection authorities said Tuesday, as wild weather swept parts of Europe, leaving motorists and tourists stranded.
Road were blocked and thousands of people were left without power in southern and central Europe, as rains and violent winds sparked flooding, tore trees from their roots and whipped debris into the air.
Thick snow has also cloaked French and Italian mountain regions, trapping hundreds of drivers in their cars and tourists in hotels.
In Italy, where Venice was inundated by near-record flooding and ferocious storms drove high winds reaching up to 180 kilometres (110 miles) an hour in some areas, civil protection authorities announced a further five deaths, after confirming five people died on Monday.
Authorities Tuesday reported a woman died when her home was engulfed by a mudslide in the northern region of Trentino, a man was killed in the northeastern region of Veneto by a falling tree, and a firefighter died during relief operations in South Tyrol.
Elsewhere, a man was killed while kitesurfing on Monday near the town of Cattolica on the Adriatic coast, with the local press saying strong winds had blown him into rocks.
The body of a man was also recovered Tuesday in Lake Levico in the north, the fire department said.
A man is also missing at sea off Calabria in the southwest after his boat was discovered empty washed up on rocks along the coast.
Italian media reported that around 170 people, tourists and hotel staff, were stranded by heavy snowfall at the Stelvio Pass on the Swiss border.
Meanwhile in Friuli Venezia Giulia, local authorities said some 23,000 people were without power.
– Hundreds stranded –
In France, more than 1,000 drivers were trapped in their cars for the night in the mountains of the Massif Central region as the roads were engulfed in snowstorms.
Another 400 had to spend the night in train carriages at the main station in the eastern city of Lyon after heavy snow blocked the tracks.
About 195,000 homes were without power across France — mostly in the east and centre.
Another 21,000 homes were also cut off on the Mediterranean island of Corsica, which was placed on red alert Monday for powerful winds, shutting its airports and ports.
Croatia’s Adriatic coast has also been battered by gale-force winds and heavy rains that have flooded streets, cut off power and ensnared road and maritime traffic.
A Slovenian surfer has been missing since Monday in the sea off of Umag city, on the northern Istria peninsula, according to port authorities.
In Spain, over 100 soldiers were helping electrical repair crews to reach isolated areas of the northern region of Asturias, blanketed by heavy snowfall at the weekend.
About 4,700 people were still without power in the region on Tuesday, according to local emergency services.
– Venice swamped –
Italy’s canal-ringed city of Venice was swamped by flooding as heavy rainfall pushed the water levels to near record levels on Monday.
Rain-soaked tourists were barred from St Mark’s Square on Monday as local authorities said the “acqua alta” (high water) peaked at 156 centimetres (61 inches). The waters have only topped 150 centimetres five times before in recorded history.
In Genoa, authorities closed the airport until 1300 GMT as they work to clear runways of detritus carried by the heavy rains, wind and tides.
Schools in the city are also closed for the day, with Rome and several other regions also halting classes.
Meteorologists expect the harsh weather to gradually ease in Italy.
Storms have also swept into Switzerland, buffeting the Ticino region near the Italian border overnight, according to public broadcaster RTS.
Roads were blocked by fallen trees and flooding, while strong winds ripped roof sections off buildings, including in Giubiasco where police said part of a firm’s roof had smashed into a moving train and a house, without causing injury.
In southern Austria, authorities have deployed hundreds of mobile anti-flooding dams as rivers burst their banks, while in the city of Salzburg a roof section from the mediaeval ramparts flew off in high winds.–AFP