Italy's civil protection agency issues red alert warnings as Sicily and Calabria hit by extreme weather.
The Sicilian city of Catania has been devastated by floods, resulting in the deaths of at least two people, as the north-east area of the Italian island continues to be battered by violent storms.
Dramatic footage showed water surging through Catania, located in the shadow of Mount Etna, with cars submerged in streets that resembled rapids.
On Tuesday a 53-year-old man drowned in floods in the nearby town of Gravina di Catania after getting swept away in the waters when he out of his car.
He was the second victim of the storms after a 67-year-old man drowned in Scordia, another town near Catania, on Sunday. Police are still searching for the man's 61-year-old wife who was also swept away by the floods.
Spaventose immagini da #Catania e parte della #Sicilia, colpite da un’#alluvione senza precedenti.
Scene che fanno male al cuore: ogni anno parliamo del #maltempo senza fare nulla per contrastare il cambiamento climatico. Agiamo invece di piangere quando succedono queste cose!! pic.twitter.com/mlGox6qgVj
— Myrta Merlino (@myrtamerlino) October 26, 2021
Italy's civil protection agency has issued its highest rossa weather alert for parts of Sicily and neighbouring Calabria, warning of potential loss of life and damage to property.
Catania mayor Salvo Pogliese ordered the closure of the city's schools on Wednesday, for the second day in a row, after shutting all businesses except pharmacies until midnight on Tuesday.
"In 48 hours, Catania saw the average amount of rain that falls in an entire year", Pogliese wrote on Facebook last night.
The mayor urged people to only leave their homes for absolute necessity and to restrict their movements "because the intensity and violence of the rains could increase at any moment."
Shocking scenes from #Catania https://t.co/iY2BU0ObFi
— Wanted in Rome (@wantedinrome) October 26, 2021
The paediatric emergency ward at the Garibaldi hospital in Catania was under water on Tuesday, as was the historic Pescheria fish market, with the situation in the city aggravated by an electrical blackout for several hours.
A section of the main road between Catania and Messina was reportedly closed on Tuesday due to a landslide, with rail services also affected in the north-east region.
The current severe weather in the south could turn into a rare Mediterranean cyclone known as a Medicane by Thursday, ahead of Italy's All Saints' holiday weekend, according to Italian weather forecast website Il Meteo.
Firefighters have carried out hundreds of emergency operations in Sicily and Calabria. "The emergency situation is widespread and extremely critical and it does not seem to be improving," a fire service spokesperson told Reuters news agency.
Blaming climate change, the Italian farmers' association Coldiretti says the storms have done "incalculable" damage to crops, submerging vegetable farms and damaging the olive harvest in the affected regions.
The extreme weather comes just over two months after Italy recorded temperatures of 48.8 degrees Celsius in the south-eastern Sicilian province of Siracusa during a sweltering heatwave in August.
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Catania floods: Two dead as streets turn into rivers in Sicilian city
Catania, Province of Catania, Italy