Two die in violent storms pounding Italy; more bad weather forecast

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ROME, Aug 18 (Reuters) - Two people were killed by falling trees in central Italy on Thursday as powerful storms battered several regions after weeks of punishingly high temperatures, rescue services said.

Italy's civil protection unit said that the bad weather would sweep south overnight and issued warnings for Friday for 11 of the country's 20 regions.

A man and a woman were crushed to death by trees in separate incidents in Tuscany, while four people were injured when a tree fell in a campsite in the same region.

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Video showed a ferris wheel spinning wildly out of control in the Tuscan resort of Piombino, with at least one of the metal canopied seats sent flying out into the air. No-one was on the ride at the time and there were no reports of injuries.

"A wave of devastation is lashing Tuscany," the region's president, Eugenio Giani, said in a statement announcing a state of emergency for the art-rich area.

Further north, heavy winds flung large cafe umbrellas across St. Mark's Square in Venice, while fragments of masonry were blown off the adjacent bell tower.

The wind blew more than 140 kmh in some parts of northern Italy, damaging beach resorts in Liguria and Tuscany, meteorologists said.

While rain and gales pounded the north, much of southern Italy remained in the grip of a heatwave, with temperatures climbing close to 40C (104°F) in parts of Sicily.

Firefighters put out a wildfire on the small island of Pantelleria, which had broken out on Wednesday and forced dozens of people, including fashion designer Giorgio Armani, to flee their homes overnight.

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Reporting by Crispian Balmer; editing by Grant McCool

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