According to experts, the extreme wet weather is a result of a rare “medicane,” also known as a Mediterranean hurricane. Medicanes are typically smaller and shorter in duration than hurricanes, although they can still bring strong winds and torrential rain.
Italy’s fire department said Monday that firefighters had carried out close to 600 flood rescues in 24 hours, 400 in Sicily and 180 in Calabria.
Videos shared to social media highlighted the scale of the destruction: many streets were effectively turned into rivers and abandoned vehicles were almost entirely submerged in murky, fast-flowing waters.
“I urge the entire population to not leave home except for emergency reasons,” the mayor of Catania, Salvo Pogliese, posted on Facebook, adding that streets were “overrun by water.”
On Sunday, the Department for Civil Protection issued a red alert — the most severe weather warning — for parts of Sicily and Calabria, warning of a threat to life and property.
The rising water, torrential winds and flooding also forced schools to close.
The wet weather continued into Wednesday, with forecasters predicting more rainfall throughout the week.
The scenes in Italy follow a summer full of deadly floods across Europe that wreaked havoc in communities ranging from Germany and Belgium, all the way to the United Kingdom.
A recent study found that extreme flooding is set to increase as global temperatures rise.
This month, leaders will gather in Glasgow, Scotland, for this year’s global climate conference — but most of the world is already feeling the repercussions of its inaction — be it through intense heat waves, wildfires or flooding.