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Five dead, eight missing after heavy rain hit north Italy

27 october 2011, 16:46
Downpours hit Italy's Tuscany and Liguria regions overnight Wednesday, killing five people and leaving eight missing as rivers burst their banks and landslides devastated villages, AFP reports, citing local authorities.

The areas worst hit were the Spezia region and the picturesque Five Lands tourist destination, where four people died. A woman's body was also recovered from a mountainous part of northern Tuscany.

According to weather reports, between 200 and 500 millimetres (8in to 20 in) of rain fell in just a few hours, causing rivers to burst their banks, tearing down bridges and sending landslides and floods sweeping through several villages.

Two tourists who were reported missing in Vernazza, one of the five villages that make up the Five Lands, were found safe and sound.

Inhabitants in Borgetto Vara and Brugnato were rescued by monks in a nearby monastery who provided shelter to around 30 people, feeding them and giving them dry clothes.

As further rain hampered rescue work, local authorities asked residents not to go out or to use private cars.

"All this happened in just a few minutes, it's shocking," said a local member of the civil protection agency at the site of a landslide which devastated the town of Aulla, where 300 people took refuge overnight in a gym.

The bad weather was expected to spread to the rest of Italy on Wednesday, and Rome's Mayor Gianni Alemanno placed firemen and rescue services on alert though the capital appeared mid morning to have escaped the worst of the rain.

Five days ago Rome was paralysed by a violent storm that flooded the city, halting public transport and forcing many Romans to stay indoors.

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