Six people died and two were missing after rivers burst their banks following torrential overnight rain in the central Italian region of Tuscany, local authorities said on Friday.
There had been fears that the River Arno could flood the historic city of Florence after nearby towns were swamped by the southern edge of Storm Ciaran, but the high water point passed in mid-morning without major incident.
“The situation is still very critical,” Monia Monni, regional councillor for civil protection, told Reuters, referring especially to Campi Bisenzio, a town about 15 kilometres (9 miles) north-west of Florence.
“(Elsewhere), the water has drained away but there is mud and the devastation that an event like this leaves behind”, Monni added.
Around 190 people have been forced to evacuate their homes, including 150 in Campi Bisenzio, where ground floor properties were damaged, parked cars were half-submerged and rescue officials navigated flooded streets with rubber dinghies.
Resident Enza Carfagna told Reuters how her family rescued an elderly wheelchair-bound ground floor neighbour, using a blanket to lift her up the stairs.
“Last night, it didn’t seem like a big thing, there was very little rain. Then around 9 p.m. (2000 GMT), we saw all this brown water coming and we went to get the lady,” she said.
The Italian government declared a state of emergency and allocated an initial 5 million euros ($5.4 million) to help the worst-hit areas.
Around 48,000 people in the region had no electricity, Deputy Prime Minister and Infrastructure Minister Matteo Salvini told a news conference.
Tuscany President Eugenio Giani said the region had never seen so much rain in such a short space of time. Speaking to Sky TG24 news channel, he said experts told him it was the worst downpour in 100 years.
“What happened overnight in Tuscany has a clear name: CLIMATE CHANGE,” Giani wrote on X.
Another person, a firefighter, was missing in the north-eastern Veneto region, the local governor was quoted as saying by Sky TG24.
Weather alerts remained in force in a number of Italian regions, with some schools closed, after a week in which the country has been lashed by strong winds and heavy rain.
Storm Ciaran was driven by a powerful jet stream that swept in from the Atlantic, unleashing heavy rain and furious winds that have already caused heavy flooding in Northern Ireland, parts of Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands and France.
Italy is seen as particularly exposed to the effects of climate change. Floods in the region of Emilia-Romagna in May killed at least 14 people.