A 65-year-old man has drowned while trying to save his family from their flooded apartment as heavy rains caused landslides and floods in Tuscany, northwestern Italy.

Roberto Ramacciotti is among six people who died as a heavy storm hit the peninsula on Sunday (10 September). Of these, four people belonged to the Ramacciotti family.

The grandfather, along with his son Simone, his daughter-in-law Glenda Garzelli and his four-year-old grandson Filippo drowned after the family's apartment in the town of Leghorn was submerged under mud and water.

Witnesses and neighbours told local media that Ramacciotti, who lived in a flat above his grandchildren and their parents' house, was the first to emerge from the mud. But he went back to the flooded apartment to save his family.

Ramacciotti managed to save his three-year-old granddaughter Camilla and gave her to a neighbour, before going back to the apartment to rescue his other family members. However, no-one managed to survive as the level of water had rapidly increased and trapped the victims in the house.

Ramacciotti, whom local media dubbed the "hero grandfather ", was the owner of a local branch of Generali Group insurance company. He had been due to retire in two years, according to Il Corriere della Sera.

The other two victims have been identified as 70-year-old Raimondo Frattali and 74-year-old Roberto Vestuti. At least two other people are still missing.

Another person died in the town in a road accident that some have linked to the floods. However, this has not been confirmed by authorities, news agency Ansa reported.

Local authorities have launched an investigation into the flood-related incidents.

Leghorn Mayor Filippo Nogarin said his town was "literally devastated" by rains and added Leghorn is now facing a state of emergency.

"It was not possible to foresee such a situation and we could not imagine that such a catastrophe could take place," Nogarin continued, adding that water "literaly devastated the town, destroying infrastructures and causing landslides" .

He also appealed for volunteers to help those affected by the disaster.

People and volunteers clean houses and garages devastated by the storm on September 10, 2017 in Leghorn, Italy Laura Lezza/Getty Images