The Italian island of Sardinia has been hit by an ‘apocalyptic’ storm that has resulted in devastating floods.
Cyclone Cleopatra tore through the holiday island last night, causing rivers to burst their banks.
The resulting floods destroyed bridges and swept cars away and at least 16 people were reported to have been killed.
The island, which is famous for its stunning Costa Smeralda beaches and warm Mediterranean climate, received more than 400mm of rain in just 24 hours.
Water levels rose to nearly three metres (10 feet) in some places following the torrential rainstorm.
A state of emergency has been declared as rescuers try to reach the more remote parts of the island that have been affected.
The worst affected area was the town of Olbia, in the northeast of the island, which is a ferry port and a popular destination for tourists in the summer months.
Regional governor Ugo Cappellacci told SkyTG24 television that Olbia had been flooded, with several bridges down, and there was a similar situation near the central town of Nuoro.
‘The situation is tragic,’ he said. ‘The hotels in Olbia are full of people who have had to escape but there are thousands who have damage to their homes.’
Sardinian Governor Ugo Cappellacci described the situation as ‘dramatic’, while Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta called it a ‘national tragedy’.
Giorgio Cicalo, an official from Sardinia’s Civil Protection Authority, told Italy’s Rai TV that the authorities were on ‘maximum alert’.
‘We haven’t seen a situation as extreme as this, perhaps for decades. Especially because it’s been across the whole island’, he said.
The storms have also disrupted a number of flights to and from mainland Italy.
Sardinia is the second largest island in the Mediterranean and cyclones are extremely rare in the region.
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