Rome's River Tiber hits record levels as man feared drowned
The waters of the River Tiber in Rome hit record levels after three days of heavy rain on Saturday, triggering fears that the historic centre of the Italian capital might be flooded.
A boat smashed into the Sisto Bridge near the Vatican, and officials feared the debris could act as a dam and were working to remove it before further rainstorms expected on Sunday.
Days of relentless rain caused the river to rise by more than 15ft, and claimed the life of a 27-year-old Irish tourist who was visiting Rome for a wedding.
Vincent Wall was missing believed drowned after he climbed a tree by the Mazzini Bridge to try to take a photograph of the river and fell in. Three others are known to have died in the bad weather, which has bombarded the country since Wednesday.
More than 800 dogs were either drowned or missing after the waters of the River Petrace overflowed, flooding a kennel near the southern city of Reggio Calabria.
On Saturday there was a respite from the rain as the leaden clouds were replaced by blue skies and sunshine, with many Romans and tourists heading to the embankments to watch the river.
Rome's mayor Gianni Alemanno gave warning that more bad weather was on its way: "We must prepare ourselves for the new weather front which is expected to arrive in Rome on Sunday - we can only hope that it is not as violent as the last one."
Rains have hit much of Italy this week, causing at least one death in the south and an estimated 200 million euros (£180 million) of damage to agriculture.
First Venice, now Rome: River Tiber bursts its banks after storms strike Italian capital 'like an earthquake'
Last updated at 6:27 PM on 13th December 2008
Four people have died in torrential weather that has struck Italy and caused the River Tiber in Rome to burst its banks.
A search is also underway for a missing 27-year-old Irish tourist who is feared to have fallen into the river on a night out with friends.
Rain and thunderstorms have drenched Italy in a natural catastrophe that the Roman mayor has likened to an earthquake. A state of emergency has already been declared.
Venice suffered the worst flooding in a generation last week. But in Venice the streets are always underwater. Rome, however, is facing a much larger threat.
Danger zone: Left, the swollen Tiber river, downtown Rome, near the Vatican's St. Peter's Basilica on Thursday. Right, the Tiber in the same place at its normal levels (file photo)
Trucks are partially submerged in floodwater in downtown Rome today
The Aniene river running through the city's north east burst its banks today, forcing police to seal off nearby areas and block off a major road leading into Rome.
'We've been hit by a wave of exceptionally bad weather that has affected all of Italy,' Mayor Gianni Alemanno told La Repubblica newspaper when asked why a torrential downpour was enough to bring the Italian capital to its knees.
The scene in Rome after the River Tiber burst its banks following days of torrential weather
Rescuers look at a houseboat stuck in the arch of Sant'Angelo bridge on the Tiber river in downtown Rome today
The shattered houseboat made for a new tourist attraction
'In Rome, it has been like an earthquake, with more rain in one night than normally comes down in all of December.'
The Tiber, on whose banks Rome was founded, is expected to overflow between 1700 and 1900 GMT tonight, officials said. The area around the historic Ponte Milvio pedestrian bridge across the river was sealed off.
The Tiber used to flood regularly until high stone embankments were built in the 19th century.
Hundreds of people living near the Tiber will be evacuated, said Agostino Miozzo, the head of the civil protection agency monitoring the river.
A British flag hanging from a lamp of a boat landing platform is submerged by the Tiber
Debris floats on the Tiber river as Sant'Angelo castle is seen in background in downtown Rome
'The river will continue to rise slowly and we expect to see maximum levels overnight and early tomorrow,' he said.
'There is no panic - this is an emergency under control.'
Unions suspended a planned today transport strike in Rome to prevent further disruption to the city's traffic situation.
Almost all of Italy has been suffering bad weather in recent days, with heavy snowfall blanketing the north and strong winds and downpours pelting the south.
Dark rainclouds cover the area near the Vatican's Saint Peter's Basilica, in Rome today
Schools were shut in some southern cities on today. A small bridge collapsed in the southern province of Calabria, killing a man. More than 100 dogs perished after a kennel flooded.
Eight Boy Scouts were being rescued on Mt. Etna in Sicily after being stranded without food supplies.
Italian agricultural lobby group CIA said the rains caused damage worth 200 million euros to the agriculture sector, saying entire fields of cereal crops and fruits had been destroyed.