16 dead as storms, floods hit French Riviera

Streets in Biot were strewn with rubble and damaged cars after violent storms and floods hit the town in south-eastern France yesterday. The glamorous cities of Cannes, Nice and Antibes were also badly affected.
Streets in Biot were strewn with rubble and damaged cars after violent storms and floods hit the town in south-eastern France yesterday. The glamorous cities of Cannes, Nice and Antibes were also badly affected.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

NICE (France) • At least 16 people were killed in violent storms and floods that struck the chic French Riviera overnight, and four others were missing, French authorities said yesterday.

President Francois Hollande was expected to visit the site of the disaster, which occurred when the Cote d'Azur received up to 180mm of rain in just three hours.

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

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 carparks, according to emergency coordinators.

"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.

Cannes provided emergency shelter for 120 people, Mr Lisnard said, adding that they now had to be vigilant against looting.

Around 27,000 homes remained without power yesterday, 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. Nice's mayor's office estimated the city received 10 per cent of its average annual rainfall in just two days.

By dawn, the worst storms had passed over the French mainland and were headed for the Italian coast, French weather agency 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.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 05, 2015, with the headline '16 dead as storms, floods hit French Riviera'. Print Edition | Subscribe