Sunday 18 February 2018

At least 16 die as flash floods hit French Riviera

A man walks by cars pile up after floods in Mandelieu la Napoule, near Cannes, in southern France
A man walks by cars pile up after floods in Mandelieu la Napoule, near Cannes, in southern France
A man walks past an overturned car in the street in Cannes, which was damaged in flooding caused by torrential rain

Matthias Galante

Flash flooding around the French Riviera has killed at least 16 people, including some who were trapped in cars, a campsite and a retirement home.

Torrents of muddy water also inundated buildings, roads and railway tracks, disrupting car and train traffic along the Mediterranean coast.

Helicopters patrolled the area and 27,000 homes were left without electricity yesterday after the Brague River overflowed its banks and fierce thunderstorms poured more than 6.7 inches of rain on the Cannes region in two hours on Saturday night, the equivalent of two months of rainfall for the region.

French president Francois Hollande said the overall death toll was still 16, with three people still missing. Government officials had given conflicting reports about casualty figures earlier in the day.

"It's not over," Mr Hollande said, visiting the flood-stricken retirement home in the town of Biot and meeting with emergency workers.

He expressed condolences to families of victims and urged residents to remain cautious, especially on the region's roads, many of which remained impassable. He promised aid for residents hit by the flooding and lamented serious damage to local stores and other businesses.

People were found dead in the towns of Cannes, Biot, Golfe-Juan and Mandelieu-la-Napoule in the south-east, the president's office said.

Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said the dead included victims who had been trapped in a parking lot and others at a campsite and a retirement home. The exact circumstances of the deaths were unclear. Several trains were stopped because of flooded tracks and traffic remained stopped along the Mediterranean coast between Nice and Toulon, according to the SNCF rail authority. Several roads in the region were closed, including those reaching Cannes.

Winds and rain whipped palm trees along the famed Croisette seaside promenade in Cannes, in images shown on television.

In nearby Antibes, cars were overturned and roads were slick with mud. The flooding also disrupted a French league soccer match in Nice, forcing the stadium to shut down in the middle of play.

Some criticised authorities for not doing more to prevent flood damage in the region. Hundreds of emergency workers were involved in rescue efforts, helped by clear skies around the region yesterday.

Pope Francis offered his prayers for the victims during his weekly blessing from St Peter's Square.

"We express our nearness to the hard-hit populations, including with concrete forms of solidarity," he said. Meanwhile, a typhoon with winds up to 180kmh lashed China's south coast yesterday, killing at least four people and leaving a trail of destruction and flooding as authorities issued the highest "red alert" emergency response.

Howling winds and snarling seas whipped up by Typhoon Mujigae caught several fishing vessels stranded out at sea, with 16 fishermen missing and one dead. Three more people were killed and 80 injured by a tornado in the city of Foshan.

In the US, a dangerous rainstorm drenching the US East Coast has brought more misery to South Carolina - cutting power to thousands, forcing hundreds of water rescues and closing many roads because of floodwater.

Emergency officials sent a state-wide alert yesterday telling people to stay off roads and remain indoors unless their homes were in danger of flooding.

Major roads were closed by flooding in several spots - including a 120km stretch of an interstate highway in the eastern part of the state.

Irish Independent

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