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Vatican switches off fountains and prays for rain in drought-hit Italy


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Vatican switches off fountains and prays for rain in drought-hit Italy

It looks like a typical summer day here at the Vatican. Hundreds of tourists queue up to get into St. Peter’s Basilica, others simply admire the square’s architectural beauty. But look closer, and one thing is missing: the water from the square’s baroque fountains. The Vatican shut them off in solidarity with neighbouring Rome, which is suffering a water shortage due to a record-breaking drought.

After weeks of relentless hot and dry weather across Italy, rain is becoming a mirage. And water is quickly running out.

Water reserves in the capital are so low local authorities said they may be forced to introduce water rationing, by closing household taps for as long as eight hours a day.

Nature is paying the heaviest price. With 60 percent of farmland across Italy hit by the drought, several regions have declared a state of emergency. Italy’s famed olives, tomatoes and wine grapes are all affected. The cost to the nation’s agriculture so far: 2 billion euros.

And the situation is just as dire across Italy’s borders. Wildfires have been raging across Corsica and the French Riviera, with hundreds of homes evacuated as a precaution.

Back in Rome, the local authorities are feeling the heat, but are struggling to cool down worries by residents.

Claudio Lavanga, NBC news correspondent in Rome, reports for Euronews: “Water has been a key element of Rome’s life for thousands of years. Even today, it flows freely from hundreds of fountains scattered across the city. Authorities are now closing 30 of them a day, while waiting for the only real solution to this crisis: rain.”