Sardinia flash floods leave nine dead

ROME (AFP) - Flash floods on the Italian holiday island of Sardinia on Monday left nine people dead as rivers broke their banks and a cyclone smashed cars, flooded homes and brought down road bridges.

The worst affected area was in and around the city of Olbia in the island's north-east - a ferry port and popular destination in the summer months.

Three people from the same family died when a road bridge collapsed onto their van near Olbia, while a mother and daughter were found dead in a car that was swept away in the city, the Ansa news agency reported, citing officials.

A police car with four officers that had been escorting an ambulance was also swept away by the heavy rain and high winds of a cyclone named Cleopatra.

Three of the officers were rescued by emergency services but a fourth died.

The victims also included a 64-year-old woman who died in her flooded home in the village of Uras in south-western Sardinia, the report said.

Her husband has been taken to hospital with hypothermia and hundreds of villagers are spending the night sheltering in a local sports hall.

An eighth victim, a man, was reported killed in another bridge collapse while a 90-year-old woman was found dead in a flooded home near Nuoro in the mountainous central part of the island.

In Olbia, hundreds of residents took to Facebook to offer their homes as shelter for the night to those forced out of their houses on a special group entitled: "Let us open our homes to our fellow citizens".