THE GRAND CANAL is seen in Venice, Italy, March 9, 2020. — REUTERS

ROME — Italy announced measures on Wednesday to help families and businesses hit by extreme climate events, as the country reels from a heatwave in the south and fierce storms in the north.

Giorgia Meloni’s right-wing administration approved a decree to help construction and agricultural firms keep staff at home in areas with very high temperatures.

Under existing Italian regulations, companies can apply for temporary lay-offs — usually to deal with a slump in business — for no more than 52 weeks over two years, or 90 days per year in the agricultural sector.

The decree allows building and farming companies, both severely hit by the heatwave because their workers cannot work from home, to use the instrument without the hours being counted in the overall limits.

“The measure will be valid for this year,” Labor Minister Marina Calderone said after an evening cabinet meeting.

A draft seen by Reuters showed that the decree had a cost of 10 million euros ($11.09 million) for state coffers.

The heatwave over most of the south took a particularly heavy toll on the island of Sicily, which was devastated by wildfires that killed three people.

Catania, below Mount Etna in eastern Sicily, has been hit by power and water supply cuts that local officials blamed in part on the heat.

The city is also struggling to get its airport fully operational again after a fire early last week caused massive and ongoing disruption.

The government is ready to earmark some 10 million euros to refund airline tickets and hotel reservations to tourists without insurance coverage, Civil Protection Minister Nello Musumeci said.

While the heatwave maintained its grip on the south, severe storms in Milan and other northern towns tore off roofs and uprooted hundreds of trees, blocking roads, smashing parked cars and disrupting transportation.

The Lombardy region around Milan has already asked the government to declare a state of emergency and has estimated damage of over 40 million euros, Mr. Musumeci said.

“Other regions will join with similar requests,” he added.

The state of emergency, one approved by the government, removes bureaucratic obstacles and speeds up procedures to provide financial help. — Reuters