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Two dead, hundreds evacuated in flood-hit French Riviera

A house is surrounded by floodwaters after heavy rainfall and the overflow of the Gapeau river the previous days, in Hyeres, on Jan 19, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
A house is surrounded by floodwaters after heavy rainfall and the overflow of the Gapeau river the previous days, in Hyeres, on Jan 19, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
A road is covered by floodwaters after heavy rainfall and the overflow of the Gapeau river the previous days, in Hyeres, on Jan 19, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
A road is covered by floodwaters after heavy rainfall and the overflow of the Gapeau river the previous days, in Hyeres, on Jan 19, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
A handout picture taken and released on Jan 19, 2014 by the French Marine Nationale shows an aerial view of the Ayguade seaport in Hyeres, after floods struck south-eastern France. -- PHOTO: AFP
A handout picture taken and released on Jan 19, 2014 by the French Marine Nationale shows an aerial view of the Ayguade seaport in Hyeres, after floods struck south-eastern France. -- PHOTO: AFP
A picture taken on Jan 19, 2014, shows a car parked on top of another in a residential area near the Pansard river in Londe-les-Maures after floods struck south-eastern France. -- PHOTO: AFP
A picture taken on Jan 19, 2014, shows a car parked on top of another in a residential area near the Pansard river in Londe-les-Maures after floods struck south-eastern France. -- PHOTO: AFP
Residents (right) watch a flooded Casino hypermarket store near the Pansard river on Jan 19, 2014 in Londe-les-Maures after floods struck south-eastern France. -- PHOTO: AFP
Residents (right) watch a flooded Casino hypermarket store near the Pansard river on Jan 19, 2014 in Londe-les-Maures after floods struck south-eastern France. -- PHOTO: AFP
A man watches an overturned car near the Maravenne river on Jan 19, 2014 in Londe-les-Maures after floods struck southeastern France. One man died on Sunday and more than 150 people had to be airlifted to safety after floods struck south-eastern
A man watches an overturned car near the Maravenne river on Jan 19, 2014 in Londe-les-Maures after floods struck southeastern France. One man died on Sunday and more than 150 people had to be airlifted to safety after floods struck south-eastern France, local authorities said. -- PHOTO: AFP

HYERES, France (AFP) - Two people were killed on Sunday and more than 150 had to be airlifted to safety after floods struck south-eastern France, local authorities said.

A third man disappeared while out on his boat and 4,000 homes have been left without power after the inundations in the department of Var, they said.

Local official Laurent Cayrel said one of the victims, a 73-year-old man, died in his basement, while the other was swept away in his car.

"The situation is very worrying, and it's not going to get any better tonight (Sunday)," he said, adding that there had been "record rainfall".

Var, which lies on the stretch of Mediterranean coast known as the Riviera popular with tourists, is known for its sunny climate.

But with forecasts of more rain overnight, Cayrel urged "the greatest vigilance".

Eight emergency helicopters would be deployed throughout the night, with 500 fire officers and 200 police on duty.

By late Sunday, 155 people had been airlifted from the worst-hit areas and efforts to evacuate residents by boat were continuing.

One local resident told how from her home she saw a huge wave sweep her empty car away before she was evacuated by helicopter with her five-year-old daughter.

"It was really staggering," she said. "We had called the fire brigade who told us to move the furniture upstairs.... We had very little time, the house flooded very quickly."

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault will travel to the affected area early Monday, his office said.

Late Sunday, authorities issued a separate flood alert for the river Rhone, which runs through southeastern France.