Image source, ReutersImage caption, The streets of Catania have been flooded during heavy rainfall on the island of Sicily

Flooding triggered by a powerful storm has overwhelmed the Sicilian city of Catania, killing at least two people.

Fierce storms battered southern Italy for a third day on Tuesday, leaving roads completely submerged in parts of the island of Sicily.

Dramatic video from Catania showed water gushing through the streets as floods engulfed the city.

Forecasters say eastern Sicily is being hit by a rare Mediterranean hurricane, known as a Medicane.

Italy's Department for Civil Protection issued its most severe weather warning for parts of Sicily and neighbouring Calabria on Tuesday.

The agency warned of potential risk to life and damage to property from heavy rain, thunderstorms and gale force winds in those areas.

Scientists say climate change caused by human activity is making extreme weather events more frequent and intense.

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The mayor of Catania, Salvo Pogliese, said eastern parts of Sicily were experiencing exceptional weather events "unprecedented" in their intensity.

Citing the "seriousness of the situation", the mayor ordered the closure of all businesses in Catania except essential services until midnight on Tuesday.

"I urge the entire population to not leave home except for emergency reasons, because roads are overrun by water," the mayor posted on Facebook.

In #Sicilia it has been raining for 3 days without stopping. This is the situation in #Catania, now. My thoughts are there. Come on wonderful people ❤ pic.twitter.com/k7955Hz9SR

— Alex Milone (@AlexMilone) October 26, 2021
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

Italian media reported the death of a 53-year-old man who was found under a car after torrential rains swept through the town of Gravina, north of Catania.

The deaths comes after the body of a 67-year-old man was found on Monday. Rescuers are still searching for his 54-year-old wife, who was swept away along with her husband by flood waters in the town of Scordia, also near Catania, on Sunday.

The rain has deluged historic parts of Catania, turning its Via Etnea high street into a river and its squares into lakes.

Image source, Cristina ScaccianoceImage caption, Forecasters say a rare Mediterranean storm is pounding eastern parts of Sicily

A blackout has left homes and businesses without electricity, while schools have been closed in the city and nearby towns.

The La Repubblica newspaper said flooding forced the evacuation of some buildings belonging to Catania's Garibaldi hospital.

"The emergency situation is widespread and extremely critical and it does not seem to be improving," a spokesman for the fire service told Reuters news agency.

Italian weather website iLMeteo said the storm was expected to gradually worsen throughout the week, bringing more heavy rains and flooding on Thursday and Friday.

'Flood water reached my car window'

Francesca Marchese for BBC News in Catania, Sicily

Only a medical emergency led me to leave home this morning, while a Medicane (a so-called Mediterranean Hurricane) hit Catania and surrounding areas.

With my toddler and my pensioner dad, I reached my GP in Gravina di Catania with my Fiat Panda never going faster than 12mph (20kph).

We had to reverse a couple of times and find alternative routes when the streets turned into rivers and lakes, with the water from blocked drains reaching my window. Some road drains are still clogged by the volcanic ash from nearby Mount Etna, which has erupted 52 times this year.

I had no idea that a 53-year-old man had died minutes before in the same area, swept away from his car after a minor car accident.

I returned home as soon as possible, relieved to be safe and sound but worried about my loved ones still at work in Catania city centre. I know many of them decided to stay safe indoors at their workplace, even after their working hours, waiting for the storm to pass.

Image source, EPAImage caption, Businesses and schools have been ordered to close in Catania