16 dead as heavy flood­ing hits French Riviera

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY CATHER­INE MAR­CIANO AND FRAN­COIS BECKER

At least 16 peo­ple were killed in vi­o­lent storms and flood­ing that struck the chic French Riviera overnight, with three peo­ple still miss­ing, Pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande said on Sun­day.

The pres­i­dent vis­ited the site of the dis­as­ter, which oc­curred when the Cote d’Azur was lashed by to 180 mil­lime­ters of rain in just three hours.

“The toll is not yet fi­nal. In these mo­ments, we must be fast, ef­fi­cient and co­or­di­nated,” said Hol­lande.

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 said the wa­ter was so murky that they could not see the bod­ies trapped in un­der­ground car parks, where at least seven peo­ple died.

“It’s apoc­a­lyp­tic,” said mayor Henri Leroy. “The park­ing lot was half-emp­tied but there are thou­sands of ve­hi­cles. There could be more bod­ies.”

Fire en­gines were busy suck­ing wa­ter out of un­der­ground park­ing lots and base­ments.

“I saw wa­ter pour in from the ve­randa. Within five min­utes, it was up to my waist,” said one re­tired res­i­dent, France Ober­lin, still in shock.

“I couldn’t open the doors but luck­ily a neigh­bor came,” she said.

Sat on a plas­tic chair, sur­rounded by de­bris and over­turned cars, she looked de­spair­ingly at her ground­floor apart­ment, in which ev­ery­thing has been de­stroyed.

Vig­i­lant against Loot­ing

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

“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 on the city’s main av­enue.

Cannes pro­vided emer­gency shel­ter for 120 peo­ple, Lis­nard said.

“We have res­cued a lot of peo­ple, and we must now be vig­i­lant against loot­ing,” he added.

Hol­lande is­sued a mes­sage thank­ing res­cuers and lo­cal of­fi­cials and ex­pressed the “sol­i­dar­ity of the na­tion” to those who had been af­fected.

Around 27,000 homes re­mained with­out power early Sun­day, 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.

About a dozen trains were halted at lo­cal sta­tions. The state rail com- pany SNCF pro­vided food and blan­kets to hun­dreds of pas­sen­gers who were stuck on­board.

The A8 high­way near An­tibes was flooded when a small river, the Brague, burst its banks.

A Nice-Nantes match in France’s first soc­cer di­vi­sion was called off in the 46th minute af­ter the pitch be­came a quag­mire.

Nice’s mayor’s of­fice es­ti­mated the city had re­ceived 10 per­cent of its av­er­age an­nual rain­fall in the past two days alone.

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