Sicily was hit by weather-related and other disasters which caused heavy damage but no loss of life, local reports said Thursday.
Strong sirocco winds were partly blamed for a hydrofoil crashing into the dockside of the port of Stromboli, a small volcanic island north of Sicily, while trying to dock.
Pictures published by the local press showed the vessel partially sinking after the crash occurred in the afternoon, but all 117 passengers and six crew members were saved, ANSA news agency said.
Also on Thursday, a number of houses, schools and hotels were evacuated in Sicily’s capital city Palermo and the surrounding territory after several fires broke out and spread to wide areas driven rapidly by sirocco winds.
Some nursery-school students were reportedly taken to hospital, though none were in serious condition, when their school near the northern city was evacuated after being overcome by fumes from a fire.
Police forces, forest guards and volunteers were at work to face the emergency fire in many parts of Sicily. Numerous motorways and highways were closed because of the flames.
Local authorities and experts said that the island, like other parts of southern Italy, suffers major damage every summer because of the fires set by arsonists and fueled by strong winds.
“We are waging war against this rabble. It is difficult to bust arsonists but we will do everything we can to catch them. We will not stand by and do nothing while the life of citizens is put at risk and our natural heritage is destroyed,” said Giuseppe Antoci, head of local national park Parco dei Nebrodi.
Antoci was the recent victim of a mafia attack because he had denounced attempted criminal infiltration of the park, and was rescued by his police escort.
“Only children believe in self-combustion…especially when there are dozens of fires at the same time, which happens every year,” he was quoted by Rai state television as saying, reports Xinhua , Rome.