At least 11 dead as violent storms buffet Italy

Heavy rains and high winds buffeting much of Italy have killed 11 people over two days, officials said Tuesday.

Many of the deaths were due to falling trees crashing down on cars or passers-by, but they also included a woman who was buried by mud when a landslide invaded her home near Trento in northern Italy, and a man who was slammed against rocks while windsurfing in Emilia-Romagna. The other fatalities occurred in Naples, Liguria, Lazio and Veneto, where authorities found a 61-year-old man whose body had been swept more than a kilometer (half a mile) from his running car.

High winds created an exceptional tide in Venice on Monday, covering three-quarters of the city for the first time in a decade. Water levels were forecast Tuesday at 105 centimeters (41.3 inches), flooding 8 percent of the famed lagoon city.

"It was the perfect storm during which adverse meteorological conditions contributed to the situation in the sea and winds," civil protection chief Angelo Borrelli said.

News agency ANSA reported damage to the mosaic floors inside Venice's famed St. Mark's Basilica, where waters reached 90 centimeters (35 inches). The bronze metal doors and columns also sustained damage.

The wooden floors in the nearly 300-year-old Florian cafe nearby were also seriously damaged.

"Venice is an amphibious civilization, we need to get used to this," art director Stefano Stipitivich said, while laying out his hope to reopen as quickly as possible.

Rains flooded highways and caused a landslide that forced the temporary closure of the Brenner highway connecting Italy with Austria, while the Adige River running through Verona rose by 2 meters (6 feet) but did not overflow. In the capital, Rome, more than 100 trees were felled by high winds, and ports reported damage from the storm, including to moored boats.

Olive growers in Liguria estimated that one-third of the crop was lost due to damage from the storms that struck during the harvest.

Nearly 6,000 firefighters were dispatched to remove debris from roadways across the country. One firefighter was killed by a tree near Bolzano, in Alto-Adige. Schools were closed in large areas of the country for two days as a precaution.