This picture taken on November 4, 2018 shows the flooded house where nine people of the same family died after a small river burst its banks in Casteldaccia near Palermo on the southern Italian island of Sicily. - Rescue services said the bodies of the family, including children aged one, three and 15, were found in their house and a man was found separately in his car while two other people are missing, they said, as Italy grapples with fierce storms which have already claimed at least 20 lives this week. (Photo by Alessandro FUCARINI / AFP)        (Photo credit should read ALESSANDRO FUCARINI/AFP/Getty Images)
Death toll to 29 in Italy's historic flooding
01:24 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

Twelve people have been confirmed dead after severe flooding in Sicily, Italy, on Sunday, bringing the nationwide death toll from a week of extreme weather to 29.

Nine members of two families were among those killed, as they dined together in a house that was submerged by water from a nearby river that suddenly overflowed, according to the fire brigade, which said its divers had found the bodies.

Giuseppe Giordano, one of the survivors, told Sky TG24 the harrowing story of how he lost his teenage son, Federico, and one-year-old daughter, Rachele, in the incident.

The swollen Milicia river runs in the area where nine people lost their lives when their home was flooded in Casteldaccia, near Palermo, Italy on Sunday, November 4.

Federico was trying to hold his sister above the deluge.

“I saw the windows had darkened. I took the car keys to try to leave and the window exploded, and then the wall unit fell and then I didn’t see anything else … maybe the light went out.”

He said he found himself swallowing water and managed to get out to a tree to hold onto for more than two hours yelling for help.

Italy’s civil protection agency said it was still looking for a doctor who had been on his way to work at a hospital Saturday night and was missing.

High winds and heavy rain have devastated parts of the country over the past week, causing the worst flooding in at least a decade in Venice, damages of more than 1 billion euros ($1.14 billion) in Veneto and landslides that have cut off villages, authorities said.

The situation in Sicily is “dramatic,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said Sunday.

Conte will call a cabinet meeting to announce a state of emergency in affected regions, he said at a press conference in Palermo, Sicily.

Italy’s civil protection agency continues to monitor the situation, issuing weather warnings via Twitter, while volunteers from the Italian Red Cross work to rescue people.

Several of last week’s deaths were caused by falling trees as winds as strong as 190 kilometers per hour (118 mph) toppled acres of woodland, including the famous “Violin Forest” that provided wood for violin maker Antonio Stradivarius’ instruments.

Two young people died south of Rome when a tree hit their car. Another was hit by a falling tree while walking in Naples.

Family members react after leaving the morgue in Casteldaccia near Palermo on the southern Italian island of Sicily on November 4, 2018, after floods killed at least 12 people

Roberto Ciambetti, president of the Veneto Regional Council, told CNN that around 300,000 trees were flattened after winds swept through the Val d’Assa in the Asiago plateau.

“Tens of thousands of tall trees were felled like toothpicks,” he said.

Ferocious winds drove the high tide to 156 centimeters (61 inches) above average sea level on Monday – one of the highest levels ever recorded. It left three-quarters of Venice submerged.

St. Mark’s Square was turned into a lake and floodwater spilled across the ancient marble floors of St. Mark’s Basilica.

A woman holds a child as she walks in a flooded Saint Mark Square.

“In a single day, the basilica aged 20 years, but perhaps this is an optimistic consideration,” Carlo Alberto Tesserin, head of the board responsible for St. Mark’s Basilica, said in a statement.

Floodwaters also covered several dozen square meters of the 1,000-year-old marble pavement in front of the alter of the Madonna Nicopeia, a 12th-century icon, and submerged the Baptistery and the Zen Chapel, Tesserin said.

Tourists take pictures in the flooded St Mark's Square during a high-water alert in Venice on October 29, 2018.

Flood barrier project incomplete

This week’s flooding was caused by a seasonal high tide and a strong low-pressure system in southern Europe that brought strong winds from the south and pushed water up the Adriatic Sea into Venice. This is the peak time of the year for seasonal flooding known as acqua alta, or high water, in the city.