Sicilian cyclone drops a year’s rain in 48 hours and kills at least two people

At least two people have died after a cyclone battered the Italian island of Sicily and dropped a year’s worth of rainwater in just 48 hours, leaving many streets flooded.

Footage shows roads submerged under raging flood water and roads and buildings being left overwhelmed after almost 20 inches of rain fell in just 48 hours.

A red alert warning had been issued for the northern tip of Sicily and Calabria in southern Italy.

So far, the extreme weather has claimed the lives of at least two people. One victim, a 53-year-old man, died after being swept away in Gravina, north of Catania, reports news agency Ansa.

Flooding was caused in places such as Catania in Sicily after almost 500mm of rainwater fell in some places in 48 hours

Dramatic video footage shared on social media showed how the flooding, caused by intense rainfall, had started to wash away cars down streets on Sicily

A car is seen almost entirely submerged beneath the flooding in Catania, Sicily, yesterday. The front of the motor can be seen to have been elevated by the water and pushed up against a brick wall after being carried down the road

A car is seen almost entirely submerged beneath the flooding in Catania, Sicily, yesterday. The front of the motor can be seen to have been elevated by the water and pushed up against a brick wall after being carried down the road

Multiple vehicles on a street in Catania are seen to have been submerged and moved by the flooding, which was caused by extreme rainfall

Multiple vehicles on a street in Catania are seen to have been submerged and moved by the flooding, which was caused by extreme rainfall

The man’s body was found beneath a car on Tuesday by volunteers after torrential rains swept through the area.

Meanwhile, the body of a second victim, a 67-year-old man, was found by workers on Sunday near the Sicilian town of Scordia, and his 54-year-old wife is reportedly still missing.

One video, shared on social media, showed the fish market in Catania, on Sicily’s eastern coast, submerged in floodwater, with more water streaming down from higher ground onto the market, flooding buildings and shops.

The city’s central Via Etnea had also been submerged by the rainwater, which sent  

Some roads on the Italian island were completely submerged by water following the intense rainfall, with some cars under threat of disappearing beneath the water

Some roads on the Italian island were completely submerged by water following the intense rainfall, with some cars under threat of disappearing beneath the water

In some places, it was impossible to even see the roads, with the flood water having fallen so fast. Parts of buildings were also covered up by the water

In some places, it was impossible to even see the roads, with the flood water having fallen so fast. Parts of buildings were also covered up by the water

People sought shelter inside shops and stores as they tried to keep off the streets and away from the flooding

People sought shelter inside shops and stores as they tried to keep off the streets and away from the flooding

Rescue workers from the the Vigili del Fuoco firefighter corps are seen carrying an inflatable boat towards a flooded road as they attempted to help people trapped by the water

Rescue workers from the the Vigili del Fuoco firefighter corps are seen carrying an inflatable boat towards a flooded road as they attempted to help people trapped by the water

Alessia Gaffuri, who filmed the clip, said: ‘Today my city was submerged by bad weather and it was difficult for all of us to leave the house.

‘There were some missing people, who unfortunately lost their lives.’

Salvo Pogliese, the mayor of port city Catania,  has closed all schools and businesses and advised against going outside unless it is urgent.

He said: ‘It’s obvious to everyone how the city is faced with a tragedy and almost unprecedented atmospheric phenomena.

Business owners struggled to protect their properties from the rising water levels, with one (above) seen using a broom to push the water back outside

Business owners struggled to protect their properties from the rising water levels, with one (above) seen using a broom to push the water back outside

These two business workers used buckets to throw the water back onto the flooded street outside. One wore plastic bags over his feet as his shop floor was still covered in water

These two business workers used buckets to throw the water back onto the flooded street outside. One wore plastic bags over his feet as his shop floor was still covered in water

A rubbish collection vehicle is seen nudged up against a brick bridge in Catania after having been pushed down the flooded street by the water

A rubbish collection vehicle is seen nudged up against a brick bridge in Catania after having been pushed down the flooded street by the water

A car park is seen completely submerged, with vehicles inaccessible, in the Monte Po district of Catania

A car park is seen completely submerged, with vehicles inaccessible, in the Monte Po district of Catania 

‘Nobody likes to close schools, but exceptional situations are responded with exceptional decisions.’

Overnight, Italy’s national fire department reported that 620 rescue missions had been carried out by 186 firefighters – and yesterday, firefighters had carried out 300 rescues on cars stuck in the floods in Catania.

Other videos have shown a group of people rescuing a man trapped underneath his car on a highway in Catania.

Rows of abandoned cars can be seen and in the midst, a group of people desperately trying to tilt a submerged car over.

A moment later a man is dragged out underneath a car and taken away for a check-up.

Rescue workers are seen emerging from a flooded street carrying an inflatable boat as they attempted to save stranded motorists

Rescue workers are seen emerging from a flooded street carrying an inflatable boat as they attempted to save stranded motorists

A resident attempts to clean up some of the devastation left behind by the floodwater. He uses a broom to try and push the water and mud from his property

A resident attempts to clean up some of the devastation left behind by the floodwater. He uses a broom to try and push the water and mud from his property

In the aftermath of the flooding, the damage and devastation left behind became clear in Catania

In the aftermath of the flooding, the damage and devastation left behind became clear in Catania

The storm has led to dozens of flights being diverted and ferry links between the southern islands cancelled.

The extreme weather is expected to peak between Thursday and Friday, with residents being warned to be cautious.

Alessia added: ‘Now the situation seems to have calmed down, there is only strong wind.

‘We fear more for Thursday and Friday, where our civil protection has informed us that a great hurricane is coming.’

Some have blamed climate change for the heavy rainfall and flooding, with rising temperatures causing the Mediterranean Sea to become warmer than oceans – which leads to greater atmospheric humidity, and more extreme weather as a result.

Cars along the Via Etnea are seen being carried down the street by the river of rainwater that fell so quickly in Catania

Cars along the Via Etnea are seen being carried down the street by the river of rainwater that fell so quickly in Catania

A residential street in Catania, Sicily, is seen completely covered in mud, left behind by the floodwaters that swept through the city

A residential street in Catania, Sicily, is seen completely covered in mud, left behind by the floodwaters that swept through the city

The fish market, situated in Catania, was also devastated by the flooding, with debris left scattered about in the aftermath of the extreme weather

The fish market, situated in Catania, was also devastated by the flooding, with debris left scattered about in the aftermath of the extreme weather

Francessca Tachhi posted on Twitter: ‘There’s huge flooding in Catania due to extreme rainfalls. The pictures are terrifying, Italy – as most Mediterranean countries – is extremely vulnerable to climate change.’ 

According to The Times, the area of the Mediterranean affected by the storm is currently 8C warmer than it was this time last year. 

Luca Mercalli, the head of the Italian meteorological society claims that the cyclone in Sicily could even be upgraded to a ‘Medicane’, but added that ‘we are not sure yet’.

A term ‘medicane’ comes from the term Mediterranean hurricane – though it is not itself a hurricane, despite sharing similar characteristics. 

The flooding comes on the eve of the Cop26 climate talks in Glasgow, which begin this Sunday.

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