Firefighters in the Italian city of Palermo have been working all night looking for people suspected of being trapped in cars on flooded underwater roads after a “loudest” rainstorm in memory, according to local officials.

Rain, which was reported to have fallen for several hours, caused widespread flooding in Palermo on Wednesday and resulted in the hospitalization of two small children for hypothermia, The Italian news agency ANSA said.

As the search for underpasses continued, police said they did not receive reports from people lost.

Leoluca Orlando, mayor of Palermo on the island of Sicily, described the rain falling as “the most ferocious rain in the history of the city since at least 1790, the same as the one that fell in a year”.

That statement does not appear to be entirely true because annual rainfall for Palermo is around 615mm (24 inches) and local reports indicate that around 80mm (3 inches) of rain falls within minutes.

The effects of rain, however, are clearly severe, with at least one meter (3.3 feet) of flood water gathering at the underpasses and the bottom of the city – an extraordinary event for July at that time the average rainfall in Palermo is 5mm and rain is expected only in one day a month.

The cause is not unusual, but unfortunate; summer thunderstorm arcs form above the Tyrrhenia Sea and slowly drift in southern Italy.

Al Jazeera and the news agency


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