Officials in the southern Italian regional capital of Palermo said a record-setting rainstorm Wednesday caused flash flooding that turned streets into rivers and trapped motorists in their cars.
Palermo’s mayor, Leoluca Orlando, told reporters the rainstorm – which the Italian news agency ANSA referred to as a “water bomb” – dropped as much rain in two hours as the Sicilian capital gets in a full year. Media reports say as much as one meter of rain hit the city. Residents posted video and pictures to social media showing submerged cars and streets that looked like raging rivers.
Italian news agency ANSA reports firefighters worked all night searching for missing people in a flooded highway underpass. The intense rainfall sent streams of mud and water sweeping away cars and leaving them blocked in the underpass. Some drivers and passengers left their vehicles and swam to safety, but a witness reported seeing two people disappear in the roiling water. At dawn on Thursday, firefighter teams brought in pumps to drain the flooded area below the underpass.
Initial reports said the two people had died in the floods, but Palermo police and firefighters said Thursday they could not confirm the deaths.