Two dead, hundreds evacuated in ‘historic’ French Riviera floods

AFP-JIJI

Two people were killed Sunday and more than 150 had to be airlifted to safety after “historic” floods struck southeastern France, local authorities said.

A third man disappeared while out on his boat, and 4,000 homes had 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,” he said Sunday, adding that there had been “record rainfall.”

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

But with forecasts of more rain overnight Sunday, Cayrel urged “the greatest vigilance.”

Eight emergency helicopters were to 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 resident told how from her home she saw a huge wave sweep her empty car away before she was evacuated by helicopter along with her 5-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.”