Flash floods claim 10 lives in southern France

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Heavy rains triggered flash floods in the mountains above France's southern Cote d'Azur region, killing at least 10 people, a local official said Wednesday.

Another four people were still missing, the deputy prefect of Draguignan, Corinne Orzechowski, told AFP.

The rains on Tuesday caused water levels to rise swiftly by several metres, preventing many people from fleeing to higher ground and forcing some to seek shelter on the roofs of their homes.

Overnight, rescue workers concentrated on helping hundreds of people trapped in their vehicles, houses or on rooftops, the secretary general for the Var region, Olivier de Mazieres told AFP.

Helicopters had already airlifted some people to safety, he added.

There were deaths in the towns of Arcs, Draguignan, Luc, Muy and Roquebrune-sur-Argens, Orzechowski said.

Five bodies had been identified, but the bodies of the other five had not yet been recovered, she added.

On Tuesday, emergency services had to let the body of a woman float away because the currents were too strong to attempt a recovery.

A spokesman for Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux said he would visit the region later Wednesday.

"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 are without electricity.

© 2010 AFP

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