MILAN — Nine members of two families were killed in the same house in Sicily when the torrential rains and high winds that have been lashing Italy caused a river to burst its banks Saturday night.
In just moments, rushing water filled the villa where the families were staying, drowning those inside.
A father and his daughter escaped harm because they had left the house to do some shopping. A third person climbed a tree to survive.
The deaths at the villa, in Casteldaccia in Palermo Province, brought the number of people killed in Sicily this weekend to 12. Three other people died in their cars hit by torrents of water.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte of Italy spoke of “an immense tragedy” during a visit on Sunday to affected areas in Sicily. He said a cabinet meeting would be convened this week to declare a state of emergency and to come up with the first package of aid for areas affected.
Heavy rains and gale-force winds have battered Italy for several days, uprooting millions of trees and cutting off villages and roads. Italy’s Civil Protection Agency said deaths caused by the wave of bad weather stood at 17, excluding the fatalities in Sicily.
Some of the worst damage has been recorded in the northern regions of Trentino and Veneto. On Saturday the governor of Veneto, Luca Zaia, said the cost of the damage in the region amounted to at least one billion euros, or $1.14 billion.
During a visit on Sunday to badly hit areas in the north, Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said $285 million had been earmarked for relief. Mr. Salvini, who is also deputy prime minister, said it would cost about €40 billion, or about $45.5 billion, to safeguard Italy against such events in the future.
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