Flash flooding has turned roads into rivers in the port city of Catania, on the Italian island of Sicily.
The situation is “very critical,” Giuseppa Maria Spampinato, a government official based in Catania, told CNN on Tuesday. From the view of her office’s window, Spampinato said the main street in the city – Via Etnea – appeared completely flooded.
On Monday Italy’s Department for Civil Protection issued a red alert – its highest level warning – for flooding in northeast Sicily and the southwest region of Calabria. A red alert was issued for a second day on Tuesday due to further expected intense rainfall.
A “depression area on the central Mediterranean persists and is causing disturbed weather conditions in the southern areas of the country,” the Italian government said Monday.
Intense rainfall and strong winds have impacted southern Italy since Sunday, with half a meter (nearly 20 inches) of rain reported in the region.
The highest rainfall totals from Sunday to Tuesday morning are from Linguaglossa, Sicily, with 520.4 millimeters (20 inches) and Fabrizia, Calabria, with 440.2 millimeters (17 inches). Catania reported 167 millimeters (7 inches) in 24 hours, more than twice the average October rainfall of 62.7 millimeters (2 inches.)
This area of storms will meander south of southern Italy, continuing rain and gusty winds in the region, and then move over Sicily on Thursday, increasing the chance of heavy rainfall and strong winds once again.
Weather models are forecasting 100 to 150 millimeters of rain will fall from Wednesday to Friday, with localized areas receiving higher amounts.
Catania’s mayor Salvo Pogliese has ordered schools and public gardens remain closed on Tuesday due to the situation, according to Catania’s municipality website. Residents are also banned from stopping in areas that are subject to landslides and along the coastal road, because of the expected storms of “particular intensity.”
On Tuesday, Italy’s fire and rescue service, Vigili del Fuoco, said on Twitter there had been 250 call outs due to the bad weather in Catania. A search for a missing woman in the commune of Scordia, in Catania, is ongoing after a man was found dead on Monday, the service said.
The head of the Civil Protection Agency in Sicily, Salvo Cocina, told Reuters on camera on Monday: “Today, we continued searching for the missing people. We have recovered the body of the man, not yet the body of the woman.
“This area is about a kilometer away from where they had left their car. Yesterday, 250 millimeters (9.8 inches) of rain fell here, a truly massive amount. Water flooded the roads and this may have caused them to leave the car in panic, maybe they could have stayed there. And they were swept away by the fury of the water.”
In the region of Calabria, there had been 140 call outs in Reggio Calabria, 52 in Cosenza, 49 in Vibo Valentia. More than 300 firefighters are involved in flood-related operations.