Sixteen feared dead as heavy flooding hits French Riviera

  • AFP, Nice
  • Updated: Oct 04, 2015 15:06 IST
Cars are seen on a flooded street on October 03, 2015 in Nice, southeastern France. (AFP Photo)

Violent storms and flooding struck the glitzy French Riviera early Sunday, killing 10 people with a further six feared dead, according to an official toll.

President Francois Hollande was expected to visit the site of the disaster, which occurred when the Cote d’Azur received up to 180 millimetres (seven inches) of rain in just three hours.

Three people died when water engulfed a retirement home at Biot near Antibes, and three drowned when their car was trapped by rising waters in a small tunnel at Vallauris-Golfe-Juan.

Other fatalities were reported in Antibes and Cannes.

Rescue teams at Mandelieu-la-Napoule, meanwhile, were searching for six people missing in underground car parks, according to emergency coordinators.

Water coursed through Cannes, Nice and Antibes, transforming the streets of three of France’s most glamorous cities into debris-strewn rivers.

“Some cars were carried off into the sea,” said Cannes Mayor Davis Lisnard, describing water levels reaching halfway up car doors and trees left uprooted on the city’s main avenue.

Cannes provided emergency shelter for 120 people, Lisnard said.

“We have rescued a lot of people, and we must now be vigilant against looting,” he added.

Speaking on a visit to Japan, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said Hollande and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve were en route to the disaster zone.

Hollande issued a message thanking rescuers and local officials and expressed the “solidarity of the nation” to those who had been affected.

Around 27,000 homes remained without power early Sunday, 14,000 of them in Cannes alone.

Communications to the region -- one of the wealthiest in France, and a magnet for visitors from around the world -- were badly hit.

Around 500 people, many of them British and Danish tourists, were stranded at Nice airport.

About a dozen trains were halted at local stations. The state rail company SNCF provided food and blankets to hundreds of passengers who were stuck on board.

The A8 motorway near Antibes was flooded when a small river, the Brague, burst its banks.

A Nice-Nantes match in France’s first football division was called off in the 46th minute after the pitch became a quagmire.

France’s weather agency said that 180mm of rain fell at Cannes between 700PM and 1000 PM Saturday, with 159mm at Mandelieu-la-Napoule and 100mm at Valbonne.

Nice’s mayor’s office estimated the city had received 10 percent of its average annual rainfall in the past two days alone.

By dawn, the worst storms had passed over the French mainland and were headed for the Italian coast, Meteo-France said.

The region’s worst flood in the past 25 years was in June 2010, when 25 people were killed.

The worst national toll from flooding over this period was in January and February 1990, when 81 people were killed by violent storms in the north and west of the country.

In December 1999, 92 people in France were killed by flooding, fallen trees and other storm damage caused by hurricane-strength winds that struck northwestern Europe.

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