At least nine people have been killed and five others are missing after flash floods hit the Italian Riviera turning roads into rivers and washing cars out to sea.
The huge downpour also triggered off landslides along some of Italy’s most picturesque coastline along the Cinque Terre which is a popular destination for British holidaymakers.
Today fire crews and civil protection teams were working their way through the flood ravaged towns of Vernazza and Monteroso where two people were rescued from a flooded bank while residents were being evacuated by sea.
Officials said that within a 24-hour period, 500mm of rain had fallen and this had led to houses collapsing and roads and railway lines subsiding – trains heading north along the coast from the south of Italy were being severely delayed.
Those missing were in collapsed buildings or had been in cars that were washed out to see and there were fears that the death toll would grew as the storm headed south towards Rome which was hit by a similar severe thunderstorm last week which had left one dead.
Three people from the same family were killed in the hamlet of Borghetto Vara near La Spezia when the house they were in collapsed while in another tale of amazing survival one woman was rescued after holding onto a basketball hoop for two hours.
The woman, who has not been named, was in her bar at Borghetto when it was engulfed by mud and water and she was swept into the main road for more than a kilometre before she managed to reach out for the hoop and hold on for her life.
She was eventually rescued by civil protection officials on a boat who said that she was suffering from the effects of shock and exhaustion but otherwise uninjured.
Dramatic footage from the Cinque Terre area, which is nestled on the coast under the shadow of several mountains and is a World Heritage Site, showed the extent of the damage at Monterosso and Vernazza with cars washed into the sea and roads turned into rivers.
Transport links were also badly hit as roads and train lines were flooded or littered with mud and other debris and teams of workmen spent hours clearing the area so emergency supplies could be brought in as well as lifting gear.
A river of dirty muddy water was seen roaring through the picturesque narrow streets of Monterosso passed pink painted buildings which are traditional in that part of the Italian Riviera.
Distraught mayor Angelo Betta said:”Monterosso does not exist any more.
“We have lost electricty, gas, telephone lines and we have people missing. Everything is flooded. We need help quickly. It is just a sea of mud everywhere.”
Weather officials said the whole of northern Italy was at risk from the heavy rainstorms and flooding was also reported in Venice with the front expected to move south over the next few hours and hit Rome.