At least eight people have died after heavy rains triggered flash floods in southern Spain, officials have said.

The strength of the floods overturned cars, closed roads, damaged homes and forced hundreds to leave their properties.

The hardest hit areas were the provinces of Malaga and Almeria, and the Murcia region.

Further north in the town of Gandia, a tornado struck a temporary fairground, injuring 35 people, 15 seriously.
'Hit hard'

At least 600 people had to be evacuated from their homes in the Andalucia region, which contains Malaga and Almeria, officials said.

Some 24.5 cm (9.6 in) of rain fell on Friday morning alone, according to Spain's weather agency.

A regional government spokesperson in Malaga told AFP news agency the rains were decreasing and seemed to be shifting towards Granada and Almeria.

However, torrential rain and violent thunderstorms are predicted to continue in the south of the country over the weekend.

The deaths of five adults and a child have been confirmed:

An elderly woman died when a river broke its banks and floodwater hit her home in Alora, north of Malaga
Three people died in Almeria
Three adults and a nine-year old girl were killed in Murcia

A spokeswoman for the regional government of Andalucia told the BBC that a 52-year-old British woman was missing in Vera, Almeria.

"We had reports [on Friday] that a British woman and a Spanish man are missing," she said.
'Washed away'

Caroline Zartash-Lloyd, who runs a small hotel in Alora, told BBC News that her neighbours had lost livestock, including pigs, hens, horses and donkeys, which could be seen floating in the flood waters.

Local people would be hit particularly hard, she suggested, because it was a poor part of Spain with unemployment of 30% and few people could afford insurance.
Bridge destroyed in the town of Alora, Spain, 29 Sept 2012 A bridge was destroyed in the town of Alora

"Cars were washed away and we lost a large bridge in Alora and another sizeable bridge in [the village of] El Valle de Abadeljais," she said.

"The farmland was completely washed away, just after the farmers had stopped ploughing. Thankfully they had not started seeding. Many people have been left without electricity or phone lines."

Ms Zartash-Lloyd praised the local authorities for their response to the crisis.

In the town of Gandia, further north along the coastline, a tornado swept through a temporary fairground on Friday evening, bringing down a ferris wheel.

The fairground, in the town's main square, was closed to the public at the time and all of the 35 people hurt were said to be fairground workers.

Several other rides were damaged and electricity was cut.

The heavy rains in parts of the south follow months of drought and high temperatures across Spain which triggered dozens of wildfires.