Wednesday night, devastating floods struck southern Italy and Sicily, hitting the city of Palermo the hardest. According to news sources, over one meter, or 3.3 feet, of rain fell within two hours. This type of weather pattern is often referred to as a water bomb. Rainfall at this level is highly unusual for the region in July as only about 5 millimeters, or 0.19 inches, typically fall at this time.
Palermo’s mayor Leoluca Orlando said the storm was, “The most violent rain in the history of the city since at least 1790.”
Local firefighters worked through the night searching for two people trapped in a car. Their bodies were found this morning. Authorities said they tried to shelter in an underpass, but the flooding blocked the road and trapped them in the car. Two children, one only nine months old, were also found trapped in a vehicle and taken to the hospital to be treated for hypothermia. Reports are unclear as to whether the children were in the same vehicle as the deceased.
As of right now, there have been no additional reports of missing persons or severe injuries due to the floods.
New footage shows dozens of cars piled up along the roadways as floodwaters pushed them out of its path. Some people were also seen swimming through the streets to higher ground.
Many said the city received no warning about the approaching storms. The mayor said if a red alert had been issued the risks would have been significantly lower.
Clean up efforts are underway, with a few underpasses already completely cleared of vehicles and major debris. The city’s bulkhead partitions have been open to the sea, and reportedly, much of the floodwater is receding.