At least eight dead as flash floods hit central Italy

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At least eight people have been killed by torrential overnight rains and floods in the central Italian region of Marche, authorities said on Friday, as rescuers continued to search for four people missing.

Around 400 mm of rain fell within two to three hours, inundating the streets of several towns around the region's capital Ancona on the Adriatic coast.

"It was like an earthquake," Ludovico Caverni, the mayor of the town of Serra Sant'Abbondio, told RAI state radio.

Footage released by fire brigades showed rescuers on rafts trying to evacuate people in the seaside town of Senigallia, while others attempted to clear an underpass of debris.

Stefano Aguzzi, head of civil protection at Marche's regional government, said the downpour was far stronger than had been forecast.

"We were given a normal alert for rain, but nobody had expected anything like this," he told reporters.

The head of the national civil protection agency Fabrizio Curcio was heading to Ancona to assess the damage, while party chiefs campaigning for Italy's Sept. 25 election expressed their solidarity.

Enrico Letta, leader of the centre-left Democratic Party said it would suspend campaigning in Marche "in a sign of mourning" and in order to allow its local activists to fully participate in efforts to help the flood-hit communities.

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