Torrential rain caused massive flooding across Northern Ireland today as days of Mediterranean style weather ended in thunder storms causing traffic chaos.

The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) said it was inundated with more than 200 emergency calls in a 90-minute period as the province was the North was engulfed by the deluge.

Cos Tyrone, Antrim and east Belfast were among the areas worst hit with streets blocked by flood waters and reports of abandoned cars floating in the water.

Rainwater leaked into the top two floors of the Stormont Parliament Building - Deputy Speaker John Dallat warned MLAs the flooding may have damaged the alarm system, making it go off accidentally.

Finance Minister Peter Robinson broke off in the middle of a debate to give MLAs an update of events outside the chamber and in his East Belfast constituency, warning them: "We are going to have to get our wellies on tonight, I suspect."

The Met Office issued a warning of more heavy downpours to come through the night and into tomorrow - they had been warning for several days exceptionally heavy rain was on the way.

In east Belfast, the Connswater Shopping Centre off the Newtownards Road was forced to evacuate customers and shut down when it was flooded.

The nearby Strandtown Primary School was forced to close because of flooding as was the public desk of the local police station. At least one other primary school and a secondary in east Belfast were also affected.

Fire officers used rubber dinghies in the Ladas Drive area rescuing people stranded by the flood water.

The NIFRS urged residents and business owners that had water entered their premises to turn off the electricity supply and to consider leaving if they felt unsafe.

In Co Antrim, the Knockmore campus of Lisburn Institute was closed down when it became waterlogged. All classes were suspended for the rest of the week.

In Co Tyrone, Omagh streets were flooded and the vehicle licensing offices in Omagh were forced to shut.

Staff and customers were also forced to evacuate a branch of Dunnes Stores when flood water swept through. One member of the management team said: "We are just unable to clear here because of the volume of water."

Much earlier in the day one of Northern Ireland's best known local theatres was badly flooded after a downpour. Up to 6ft of water filled the basement of Burnavon in Cookstown, Co Tyrone and fire fighters spent hours battling rising water levels with threatened the entire auditorium.

The Federation of Small Businesses expressed concern over the considerable disruption flash floods have caused to business premises across Belfast and called for an urgent review of emergency procedures to deal with such situations.

Ulster Unionist East Belfast MLA Michael Copeland said there was insufficient capacity in existing drains and sewerage system.

"At the present we have the ridiculous situation where the Water Service say it's not their problem as it is surface water and the Roads Service maintaining it isn't their problem because the problem stems from drains," Mr Copeland said.