Sicily flooding: Two die after fierce storm batters Italian island as emergency crews warn situation critical

At least two people have died after a rare cyclonic storm battered Sicily leaving parts of the Italian island submerged.

Town squares and streets have become lakes as widespread flooding left the city of Catania and surrounding areas underwater.

More than 300mm (11.8in) of rain – almost half the average amount expected on the Mediterranean island in a year – fell in just a few hours on Sunday, according to the Sicilian farmers’ association.

The downpours have prompted emergency authorities to issue the highest red alert warning for the northern tip of Sicily and Calabria in southern Italy, warning of a potential risk to life and damage to property.

A man’s body was found under a car as torrential winds and rain swept through the town of Gravina, north of Catania, according to volunteer rescue workers.

The body of another man, 67, was found in a citrus grove far from where his car was hit by rising waters and mud, southwest of Catania, on Monday.

His wife has been reported missing, the emergency services said – as rescue workers battle rapidly worsening conditions.

Analysis by Joanna Robinson, weather producer

“The emergency situation is widespread and extremely critical and it does not seem to be improving,” a fire service spokesman warned.

Catania mayor Salvo Pogliese has ordered all shops, except pharmacies and grocers, to close until midnight.

“I urge all people not to leave their homes except for emergencies,” he wrote in a Facebook post on Tuesday.

Floodwaters have also hit a ward at Catania’s Garibaldi hospital, according to local media reports.

Blackouts have been triggered in the city centre while a number of schools have also been forced to close.

Dozens of flights have been diverted from the area with ferry links between the southern islands cancelled.

The tropical-like storm is believed to be a medicane, sometimes referred to as a Mediterranean cyclone or hurricane.

The devastating weather system – which is expected to peak between Thursday and Friday – hit when the sea was 8C warmer than average, according to Italian weather site, Ilmeteo.it.

It comes just weeks after more than 29 inches of rain was dumped on Italy in just 12 hours – breaking a European record, with the commune of Rossiglione in Genoa, Liguria, among the worst-affected areas.

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