Italy: Two dead as rare Mediterranean hurricane triggers floods in Sicilian city of Catania

Flooding triggered by a powerful storm has overwhelmed the Sicilian city of Catania, killing at least two people.

Fierce storms battered southern Italy for a third day on Tuesday, leaving roads completely submerged in parts of the island of Sicily.

Forecasters say eastern Sicily is being hit by a rare Mediterranean hurricane, known as a Medicane.

Italy’s Department for Civil Protection issued its most severe weather warning for parts of Sicily and neighbouring Calabria on Tuesday.

The agency warned of potential risk to life and damage to property from heavy rain, thunderstorms and gale force winds in those areas.

Scientists say climate change caused by human activity is making extreme weather events more frequent and intense.

The mayor of Catania, Salvo Pogliese, said eastern parts of Sicily were experiencing exceptional weather events “unprecedented” in their intensity.

Citing the “seriousness of the situation”, the mayor ordered the closure of all businesses in Catania except essential services until midnight on Tuesday.

“I urge the entire population to not leave home except for emergency reasons, because roads are overrun by water,” the mayor posted on Facebook.

Italian media reported the death of a 53-year-old man who was found under a car after torrential rains swept through the town of Gravina, north of Catania.

The deaths come after the body of a 67-year-old man was found on Monday. Rescuers are still searching for his 54-year-old wife, who was swept away along with her husband by flood waters in the town of Scordia, also near Catania, on Sunday.

The rain has deluged historic parts of Catania, turning its Via Etnea high street into a river and its squares into lakes.

A blackout has left homes and businesses without electricity, while schools have been closed in the city and nearby towns.

La Repubblica newspaper said flooding forced the evacuation of some buildings belonging to Catania’s Garibaldi hospital.

Italian weather website iLMeteo said the storm was expected to gradually worsen throughout the week, bringing more heavy rains and flooding on Thursday and Friday.