At least six people have been killed in central Tuscany when Storm Ciaran swept through Italy after causing chaos in more western parts of Europe.
Tuscany Governor Eugenio Giani said that six people died as torrential rain fell from the coastal city of Livorno to the inland valley of Mugello on Friday and rivers burst their banks flooding towns and villages.
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The dead included two elderly people from the city of Prato, north of Florence, according to Italian news agency ANSA.
One person was also killed in Albania after they lost control of the car they were driving, bringing the storm’s death toll across the continent to 14.
Italian Civil Protection authorities said that 200 millimetres (nearly eight inches) of rain fell in three hours on Friday.
Giani said it was the heaviest amount of rain recorded in the last 100 years.
“There was a wave of water bombs without precedence,” Giani told Italian news channel Sky TG24.
Climate scientists say human-induced climate change has led to heavier rainfall during storms like Ciaran, often resulting in more severe damage.
“If the conditions are different than 20 years ago, it is obvious to everyone,” Nello Musumeci, the government’s minister for civil protection, told Sky TG24, noting that weather systems in Italy have become more tropical in nature.
At one point there were concerns the River Arno could flood the historic city of Florence, but the high water point passed without major incident.
About 190 people were forced to evacuate their homes, including 150 in Campi Bisenzio, where houses were inundated and parked cars half-submerged in the water.
Resident Enza Carfagna told the Reuters news agency 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 at about 9pm (20:00 GMT), we saw all this brown water coming and we went to get the lady,” she said.
High-speed train services between Florence and Milan were suspended and with an estimated 48,000 people left without power, the Italian government declared a state of emergency. It allocated an initial 5 million euros ($5.4m) to help the worst-hit areas.
Huge waves also pummelled the Adriatic shores of the Balkans, as strong winds uprooted trees and ripped off roofs. Ferry services connecting Croatia’s islands were suspended because of the weather.
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 the United Kingdom, France, Belgium and the Netherlands.
More than half a million French homes remained without electricity for a second day, mainly in the northwestern region of Brittany. Trains were halted in several areas and many roads remained closed.
French President Emmanuel Macron visited storm-ravaged areas of Brittany on Friday while Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne went to hard-hit areas of Normandy.