Flash Floods Take 20 Lives in Southern France

June 17, 2010

A series of heavy rainstorms has caused rivers and creeks in southern France to rise to unprecedented levels. Flash floods have swept away cars and houses, and directly caused the deaths of at least 20 people, with the toll expected to rise, as rescue workers clean up the debris.

The heaviest rain fell across the Department of the Var, between Marseille and Nice, including portions of the Cote d’Azur. The storms flooded roads and downed power lines across a wide region.

The area around the city of Draguignan, a commercial center, has been especially hard hit by the floods, with a number of people needing rescue by helicopters from the roofs of their flooded homes. The airport at Toulon shut down all flights, as water spilled over the runways.

The A8, La Provençale, the main auto route that runs through the Var and on into the Cote d’Azur, has been closed in a number of areas due to flooding. Local and national train services, including the high speed TGV lines, have also been affected.

French television showed pictures of widespread devastation, with cars, trees, and pieces of buildings all piled on top of one another by the power of the cascading water. More than a 1000 people have been left homeless by the floods, while many more are without electricity or running water.

The French weather service said around 40 cms (15.7 inches) of rain had fallen across the region since Tuesday night. In TV interviews local residents and officials have described the floods as “unprecedented.” Even more rain is forecast until the weekend, but of somewhat lesser intensity.

President Nicolas Sarkozy and French Interior Minister Bruce Hortefeux have both issued statements of condolence to the families who have lost relatives, and have promised aid to the stricken region, which is in the process of being declared a disaster area.

Source: news reports

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