ROME - At least six people have died in violent rainstorms sweeping across Italy on Sunday, with the Tuscan city of Livorno taking the brunt of the flooding, fire services said. Four people from the same family were found dead in a flooded house in the city, where 40 centimetres (16 inches) of rainfall in four hours transformed streets into rivers and washed away cars.

The dead were a little boy, his parents and his grandfather, all found in a basement apartment, local daily Il Tirreno said. The grandfather, who lived on first floor, had managed to rescue a three-year-old girl from the basement but died when he went back to try and save a four-year-old boy, it said. A fifth body was found in an area devastated by landslides, while a sixth was found in a nearby hilltop neighbourhood.

A seventh person was killed in a road accident, though it was not yet clear whether it was due to the weather.

 Two other people were still believed to be missing, the fire brigade said. “The situation is very difficult, it’s critical. The city is on its knees,” Livorno mayor Filippo Nogarin said.

He said the government had underestimated the danger, issuing a code orange alert for the region rather than red. “We didn’t expect this because the alert was orange. Then we woke up to this,” he said adding that the death toll “may still rise” and could have been avoided entirely if they had known what was coming.

Italy’s civil protection service said the code orange alert for Florence was still in place as the storms, which began in northern Italy overnight, swept down the country towards the south.

Underpasses were closed in parts of the capital Rome, and seven tube stations were shut due to flooding. “What’s happening in Rome right now is unheard of... with a storm unleashing chaos. Once more the city has proved itself to be completely unprepared for rain,” said Italian consumer association Codacons.