Two people have been killed and nine injured after a tornado tore through the Italian island of Pantelleria in the Mediterranean, leaving a path of destruction. The whirlwind ripped off roofs and flipped over at least six cars, with residents describing the scene as “apocalyptic”.
Four of the nine injured are in serious condition, according to the authorities. A hospital helicopter from nearby Lampedusa island was initially unable to reach the island to provide assistance because of the bad weather.
The dead include an off-duty firefighter who was driving his car when it was caught in the extreme winds, according to Italy’s civil protection agency.
According to testimonies, the tornado ripped down a coastal road in seconds.
“When we arrived at the scene, the cars were overturned and the drivers, unfortunately, were already dead. There was nothing to do. One body was thrown on a wall by the wind, the other was on the ground,” one witness told local media.
“We are still trying to figure out what happened,” said Vincenzo Campo, the mayor of Pantelleria.
“It was truly an apocalyptic scene,” an unnamed paramedic at the site told the Italian newspaper la Repubblica. “At the moment there are two confirmed deaths, but searches are continuing, and we are making sure there are no missing. The tornado came from the sea and in a few seconds it ripped houses and cars that were travelling along the coastal road.”
Photographs posted on social networks show cars thrown against houses, other vehicles badly damaged or flipped, and flooded streets.
Once a huge volcano, Pantelleria – dubbed the black pearl of the Mediterranean – is famed for its hot spring waters and attracts thousands of tourists every year, including Sting and Giorgio Armani, who owns a luxury villa there.