Rescuers airlifted survivors and searched for missing people in southern France today after heavy rainstorms triggered flash floods that left at least 15 people dead, officials said.
Teams of firefighters rushed to help hundreds of people trapped in their vehicles, houses or on rooftops, in the Draguignan area near the Mediterranean coast, while helicopters were sent in to airlift residents to safety.
Emergency teams also moved 436 inmates from a flooded prison in Draguignan where the water covered the first two floors and they were taken to nearby jails.
The death toll has climbed since early morning as rescuers found the bodies of more victims. State authorities in the Var department said earlier that 11 people had died and 12 were missing.
"This is probably not the final toll," said a spokesman for the Var department.
Heavy rains yesterday caused water levels to rise swiftly in the area, preventing many people from fleeing to higher ground and forcing some to seek shelter on the roofs of their homes.
"We haven't seen anything like this in a decade," said the top official for the Var department, Hugues Parant.
Around 1,850 firefighters, soldiers and police officers and 11 helicopters have been mobilised, officials said, adding that 1,500 calls for help had been received.
The disaster reached the popular tourist town of Frejus where more than 1,500 people were taken to safety, many in inflatable boats or by helicopter airlift to four shelters.