Record-breaking Storm Ciarán kills at least 5 in Italy, trapping residents and overturning cars: “A wave of water bombs”


Record-breaking rain produced floods in a vast swath of Italy’s Tuscany region as Storm Ciarán pushed into the country overnight, trapping residents in their homes, inundating hospitals and overturning cars. At least five people were killed, bringing the storm’s death toll in western Europe to 12 on Friday.

Italian Civil Protection authorities said nearly 8 inches of rain fell in a three-hour period, from the city of Livorno on the coast to the inland valley of Mugello, and caused riverbanks to overflow. Video shows at least a dozen cars getting pushed down a flooded road.

“There was a wave of water bombs without precedence,” Tuscany Gov. Eugenio Giani told Italian news channel Sky TG24 as he tried to describe the downpour. He reported the five deaths on social media and posted photos of vast inland areas inundated by the flooding.

Italian firefighters work in flooded streets in the Tuscany region, Italy, November 3, 2023. 

Vigili del Fuoco/Handout via REUTERS

The dead in Tuscany included an 85-year-old man found in the flooded ground floor of his home near the city of Prato, north of Florence, and an 84-woman who died while trying to push water out of her home in the same area, according to Italian news agency ANSA. Another victim was reported in Livorno.

At least three people were missing Friday in Tuscany, and one person was reported missing in the mountains of Veneto, north of Venice. Other regions were on high-alert and authorities warned that the storm was heading toward southern Italy.

Ciarán left at least seven people dead as it swept across Spain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany on Thursday. The storm devastated homes, caused travel mayhem and cut power to a vast number of people.

As the storm pushed through, it flooded at least four hospitals, including in Pisa and Mugello. Throughout Tuscany, train lines and highways were disrupted and schools were closed. Hundreds of people were stranded, unable to get home, including about 150 stuck in Prato after a train line was suspended Thursday night.

“The psychological fear is high”  

The mayor of Prato expressed shock at the force of the flood that devastated the city overnight. By early Friday, residents were working to clean the damage.

“A blow to the stomach, a pain that brings tears. But even after an evening and night of devastation, we are pulling up our sleeves to clean and bring our city back to normality,” Mayor Matteo Biffoni posted on social media.

Florence Mayor Dario Nardella told Sky TG24 that the Arno River, which runs through the center of the city, had reached the first level of alert, with the highest levels forecast for midday.

“The psychological fear is high, considering that tomorrow is the anniversary of the 1966 flood,” Nardella said, recalling a flood that killed 101 people and damaged or destroyed millions of artistic masterpieces and rare books.

In Austria’s southern Carinthia province, which borders Italy and Slovenia, wind and heavy rain on Thursday night led to landslides, blocked roads and power cuts. About 1,600 households were without electricity early Friday, the Austria Press Agency reported.

The storm receded in northern France and the Atlantic coast on Friday, but heavy rains continued in some regions as emergency workers cleared away debris from the day before. Meanwhile Corsica in the Mediterranean faced unusually fierce winds Friday – up to 87 mph – and regions in the Pyrenees in the southwest were under flood warnings.

More than a half-million French households remained without electricity for a second day, mainly in the western region of Brittany. Trains were halted in several areas and many roads remained closed.

French President Emmanuel Macron was traveling Friday to storm-ravaged areas of Brittany and Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne was traveling to hard-hit areas of Normandy.

Flood warnings in England

In England, more than 70 schools were closed in Suffolk, plus some in Norfolk, on Thursday with hundreds of homes left without power in both counties, the BBC reported. Weather warnings and flood alerts are still in place across the East of England.

“The amount of rain that happened in Suffolk has been extraordinary,” Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey told BBC Radio. ” “I understand there are multiple villages where they’ve not experienced this level of rain and flooding before.”

Video posted by the BBC showed a car being swept out into the sea and roofs blown off of building.

The deluge of rain on Thursday came less than two weeks after Storm Babet caused multiple deaths and widespread flooding.

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