Flash floods claim six lives in southern France
Heavy rains triggered flash floods in the mountains above France's southern Cote d'Azur region on Tuesday, killing six people, while at least another three were missing, officials said.
Water levels rose by several metres within a short space of time, preventing many from fleeing to higher ground and forcing them to seek shelter on the roofs of their homes.
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 two victims died in Muy and Arcs, the secretary general for the Var region, Olivier de Mazieres, told AFP.
Rescue services were focussing their efforts on helping nearly 900 people trapped in the vehicles, houses or on the roofs of their homes, he added. Helicopters had already airlifted some people to safety.
At least three, possibly four other people were missing, said the region's gendarmerie.
"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 as 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. They were called out over 600 times during the day.
Some 175,000 homes in the region have lost power.
© 2010 AFP