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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 September 2018

Vatican turns off fountains for 'first time in memory' amid Rome drought

Suffocating summer heat has followed two years of lower-than-average rainfall in the Italian capital, forcing the city to close drinking fountains and consider the prospect of water rationing

A woman stands near a fountain that has been switched off in St Peter's Square, in Vatican city, on July 25, 2017. Andreas Solaro / AFP
A woman stands near a fountain that has been switched off in St Peter's Square, in Vatican city, on July 25, 2017. Andreas Solaro / AFP

Vatican authorities have begun to turn off some 100 fountains, including two Baroque masterpieces in St Peter's Square, due to a prolonged drought affecting the tiny city state and the city of Rome which surrounds it.

Suffocating summer heat has followed two years of lower-than-average rainfall in Rome, forcing the Italian capital to close drinking fountains and consider the prospect of water rationing.

Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said on Monday it was the first time authorities in the spiritual home of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics could remember being forced to turn off the fountains.

Standing in St Peter's Square, where two fountains by 17th-century sculptors Carlo Maderno and Gian Lorenzo Bernini stood dry, Mr Burke added that the Vatican wanted to help.

"This is the Vatican's way of living solidarity with Rome, trying to help Rome get through this crisis," he said.

All 100 Vatican fountains will be turned off gradually over the coming days.

Rome is gasping after 72 per cent less rain than normal fell in July, according to Sky Italia's weather TV channel. There was 74 per cent less than normal in June, and a 56 per cent reduction from the long-term average across March, April and May.

Caring for the planet and its resources is an important issue for Pope Francis, who demanded swift action by world leaders in the first ever papal document dedicated to the environment.

"This decision is very much in line with the pope's thinking on ecology: you can't waste and sometimes you have to be willing to make a sacrifice," Mr Burke said.

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