Flash floods claim seven lives in southern France
Heavy rains triggered flash floods in the mountains above France's southern Cote d'Azur region on Tuesday, killing seven people, while at least another eight were missing, a local official said.
Water levels swiftly rose by several metres, preventing many from fleeing to higher ground and forcing some to seek shelter on the roofs of their homes.
Rescue services were focussing their efforts on helping hundreds of people trapped in the vehicles, houses or on the roofs of their homes, the secretary general for the Var region, Olivier de Mazieres told AFP.
Helicopters had already airlifted some people to safety, he added.
Three people were killed in the town of Draguignan and a woman in Luc. Her body was left to float in the water raging through the town as rescue workers deemed the currents too strong to attempt a recovery.
The other victims died in Arcs, Muy and Roquebrune-sur-Argens, the secretary general for the Var region, the sub-prefect of Draguignan, Corinne Orzechowski, told AFP. Another eight people were missing, she added.
"We haven't seen anything like this in a decade," said the top official for the Var department, Hugues Parant, noting that 180 millimetres (seven inches) of rain had fallen within 12 hours.
"In a few minutes the water rose by 50, then 60 centimetres, said one AFP reporter caught in the flooding at Draguignan. "And it is up to two metres," he added.
Such was the extent of the flooding that empty vehicles, cars and lorries alike, were floating down the street.
The rising water also trapped a high speed train travelling from the southern city of Nice to Lille in the north at Luc with 300 passengers on board.
More than a thousand people were involved in the rescue operations, including hundreds drafted in from other regions.
Some 175,000 homes in the region have lost power.
© 2010 AFP