The weird weather continues worldwide: Cyclone Cleopatra devastated the Italian island of Sardinia on Monday leaving at least 16 people dead and more still missing. Flash floods – in some areas up to 3 metres (10ft) high – swept away cars and bridges and surged into people’s homes without warning.

The worst-hit area was Olbia in the north-east, where regional governor Ugo Cappellacci told SkyTG24 television that several bridges were down, and that 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."

Cappellacci said that the flooding happened so quickly that there was no time to prepare, and rescuers had discovered a whole family of four dead in a ground floor flat in an area of Olbia which had been deluged by a sudden explosion of water.

Three other people were killed after a road bridge collapsed on to their car near Olbia, and a mother and daughter were found in their car which had been washed away by the flood waters, reported local media. Even rescue workers were among the victims: a police officer was killed when a bridge collapsed as he was escorting an ambulance carrying other casualties.

The floods were caused when the equivalent of six months’ rainfall – 450 millimetres (18in) – fell in just an hour and a half.
A state of emergency has now been declared on the island by the Italian authorities, allowing extra relief resources to be sent to affected areas.

Apparently, Mediterranean tropical storms are very rare, and it is even more unusual for them to make landfall in Europe. There has been only one other recorded hurricane to previously do so, Hurricane Vince in 2005, which hit the Iberian Peninsula, though damage was minimal compared to the latest Cyclone Cleopatra.

Giorgio Cicalo, an official from Sardinia’s civil protection authority, told Italy’s Rai TV: "We haven’t seen a situation as extreme as this, perhaps for decades."

The Unknowncountry Climate Watch section was alone in the world predicting dangerous weather for Europe this season. It has been predicting flooding in Europe this fall and winter since last summer.

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