Four dead, several injured as gale-force winds batter Italy

In strong winds the branch of a tree in the street Viale di Trastevere fell on a car in Rome, Italy, Feb 23, 2019. [Photo/IC]

ROME - Four people died and several were injured as gale-force winds whipped through central and southern Italy, uprooting trees, ripping roofs off buildings, and causing a merchant ship to run aground, rescue services reported on Saturday.

In the central Lazio region whose capital is Rome, a collapsing wall killed two people and injured one, while a third person was crushed to death when a tree fell on his car, firefighters tweeted.

A car tries to make its way past a fallen tree along the Via Ardeatina, in Rome, Italy, Feb 23, 2019. [Photo/IC]

Near Rome, a 14-year-old boy was crushed to death when his father fell on top of him after being blown off a ladder while trying to repair a roof which damaged by the wind, Italian news agency ANSA reported.

In Rome, traffic was snarled when trees fell across streets in various locations across the city, including one that fell on a taxi and ripped the cables off an electrical pole. No one was reported injured, ANSA said, while the Colosseum Archeological Park was shut down "due to strong winds", authorities tweeted.

Three people were hurt when the wind ripped a metal roof off a gym in the southern region of Sicily, firefighters said on Twitter, adding that as of late Saturday afternoon, they had carried out 1,500 interventions across Italy due to adverse weather and high winds.

The Turkish merchant ship Efe Murat is driven aground a rocks barrier due to strong winds in Bari, Italy, Feb 23, 2019. [Photo/IC]

In the Puglia region in the heel of Italy's boot, a Turkish merchant ship ran aground due to high winds. The Coast Guard posted helicopter video footage showing the vessel stuck within sight of the beach and being battered by waves, saying there appear to be no toxic spills in the surrounding water.

Also on Saturday, the Coast Guard reported it rescued one person aboard a Dutch-flagged sailboat whose engine had failed off the coastal city of Crotone in Calabria, in the tip of Italy's boot.

"We saved the one person on board, in spite of high seas and wind blasting up to 60 knots," the Coast Guard tweeted, along with a video of the rescue in the storm.

Rescuers help the crew of the Turkish merchant ship stranded about 200 meters from the seafront of Bari, southern Italy, Feb 23, 2019, after it was pushed by the strong winds against the breakwater barrier. [Photo/IC]

As well, the Coast Guard said it rescued two leisure boaters off a vessel "that was in the process of sinking due to adverse weather conditions" off the Lazio coast, while heavy winds sent two ferries crashing into each other in the port of Ischia island. No one was injured but both vessels were damaged, according to the Coast Guard.

Italian Firefighters work near the wreckage of a car which was hit by a tree fallen due to strong winds and had caused the death of the driver in Guidonia, Italy, Feb 23, 2019. [Photo/IC]

In a town near the southern city of Naples, a woman and her son were hospitalized after a tree fell on their car, ANSA reported.

The Civil Protection Agency has issued a weather alert extending from the northern region of Tuscany all the way down to Sicily for Sunday, citing "persistent strong or gale-force winds" and "possible sea swells along coastal areas" that could lead to floods or landslides.