Several more people are missing in Tuscany and elsewhere across the country, including a firefighter who fell into a canal in the Veneto region in northeastern Italy, according to the fire brigade.
Around 40,000 people in Tuscany were left without electricity on Friday morning and the regional president, Eugenio Giani, has called a state of emergency. Schools are closed across the region.
Heavy flooding in the industrial area of Prato, near Florence, has inundated textile factories and wiped out roads, Giani said in a post on social media. He warned people to stay home until roads can be cleared.
In the city of Pontedera, near Pisa, the Lotti hospital flooded and had to be evacuated, according to CNN affiliate SKY24. Images on social media also show the metro station flooded.
The Arno river, which runs through Florence and Pisa, burst its banks on Friday morning, according to Giani. Several other major rivers, including the Seveso which runs through Milan and the Bisenzio which runs through Prato, could also flood in the coming hours, according to Italy’s civil protection agency. It asked people to leave nearby areas and remove vehicles near river banks.
Lake Como in northern Italy has breached its banks for a second time in a week, the civil protection said Friday.
Defense Minister Guido Crosetto called up the armed forces to help search for people and remove downed trees and debris from damaged buildings across affected areas.
“At the request of civil protection, the Armed Forces are working to bring help to the areas affected by the bad weather. Helicopters, land vehicles, water pumps, buses and also the Comsubin [submarine search vehicles] for search and rescue activities,” he said in a statement Friday morning.
The fire brigade said it received “thousands” of calls for help with downed trees and flooding overnight Thursday.
It warned that the storm is expected to hit Rome later Friday and asked people to be on alert. There are three-meter waves off the coast near Rome and the ferry service to Sardinia has been suspended, according to the Lazio regional authority.
Storm Ciarán has pummeled parts of western Europe since Wednesday night with strong winds and torrential rain. It claimed at least four lives yesterday — two in France and a further two in Belgium — and left more than 1 million people in France without power.
More than 500,000 homes in France were still without power on Friday, French government spokesperson Olivier Véran told CNN affiliate BFMTV.
Powerful storms in the region are not uncommon in fall and winter but the human-induced climate crisis is making some storms more frequent and more intense.
As the Earth’s atmosphere warms, it is able to hold more water vapor — so when it rains, it rains much more intensely.
“The rainfall associated with these types of storms is more severe due to climate change, and the storm surges are higher and thus more damaging due to the higher sea levels,” said Friederike Otto, senior lecturer in climate science at the Grantham Institute, Imperial College London.
CNN’s Laura Paddison, Pierre Bairin, James Frater, Delal Mawad and Eve Brennan contributed to this report