ROME Nine people died and hundreds were evacuated when storms tore through the Italian island of Sardinia on Monday night, sweeping cars away and causing a bridge to collapse, local media reported.
Television pictures showed torrential rain, with streets submerged in muddy floodwaters and rivers bursting their banks.
"We're at maximum alert," Giorgio Cicalo, an official from the Civil Protection Authority in Sardinia told RAI state television. "We haven't seen a situation as extreme as this, perhaps for decades. Especially because it's been across the whole island."
Local newspapers Unione Sarda and Nuova Sardegna reported in their online editions that nine people had been killed with the storm still raging but it was not immediately possible to confirm the figure with local officials.
"I can't confirm the figures but there have certainly been dead and there are missing," Gianni Giovannelli, the mayor of Olbia, a town in the island's northeast which was among the worst affected areas, told Rai 3 television.
According to local media reports, one police officer was killed and three of his colleagues were injured when a bridge collapsed. In another incident, a woman and her daughter were drowned when their car was tipped on its side by the flood.
There was heavy rain across northern Italy as well as in the south with high winds and flooding in coastal areas, the Civil Protection Authority said.