Eleven people have been killed by flash floods in a popular tourist region in south-east France. Several others were reported missing after torrential rain hit the mountains above the Cote D’Azur region on Tuesday.
This caused rivers in the Var region east of Marseilles to rise by up to 8 feet, forcing hundreds of people to seek safety on the roofs of their homes.
Hundreds more were trapped in their floating vehicles as water flooded roads in towns and villages.
A number of towns were affected, including the tourist hotspot of Draguignan, where over 30cm of rain fell within a few hours. Other towns affected were Arcs, Luc, Muy and Roquebrune-sur-Argens.
“We haven’t seen anything like this in a decade,” said Hugues Parant, the top official for the department of Var.
President Nicolas Sarkozy issued a statement expressing condolences for the victims’ families and support for rescue teams who are “mobilising non-stop to provide aid and find those still missing”.
At least 1,000 people had to leave their homes and spend the night in schools or other temporary shelters, and some 175,000 houses were estimated to have been left without electricity.
The force of the water swept empty cars and other vehicles down streets.
Rail and air services in the region were interrupted, and about 300 passengers travelling on a high-speed TGV train between Nice and Lille were delayed by the flood waters.
By this morning 12 people were still reported as missing.
Rescuers said they were probably trapped by water and waiting for flooding to subside.