ROME, Italy: Italy has declared a state of emergency in the areas surrounding the Po river in the country's wealthy north, which is suffering from its worst drought in 70 years.
The area accounts for nearly one-third of Italy's agricultural production, and the decree will enable authorities to take immediate action as they deem necessary, such as imposing water rationing.
The Po, which runs for more than 400 miles, is Italy's longest river, but many areas along the waterway have run dry, which, according to farmers, has allowed sea water to seep inland, destroying crops.
The Italian government has also earmarked an initial €36.5 million ($38 million) of funding to help tackle the water shortage in the five northern regions of Emilia-Romagna, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Lombardy, Piedmont and Veneto.
In a statement, the government said, "The state of emergency is aimed at managing the current situation with extraordinary means and powers, with relief and assistance to the affected population."
Future measures could be made to deal with the drought, which is beginning to affect central Italy after an extremely dry winter and spring, followed by an exceptionally hot early summer, authorities said.
According to Italian media reports, Prime Minister Mario Draghi was also considering appointing a commissioner to coordinate the response to the drought.