Deadly flash floods hit southern France

by Henry Samuel | The

Paris, France — Floodwaters more than six feet high transformed the roads of Draguignan, between Marseille and Monaco, into gushing brown rivers that swept away cars, trees and ripped the sides of houses in the Var department of Provence.

Torrential rains – the equivalent of six months’ rainfall fell within hours – caused water levels to rise so swiftly that many people had no time to flee to higher ground and were forced to seek shelter on the roofs of their homes.

“We opened the door of the house and the water rushed towards us like the sea. There was a great wave. We managed to swim to our neighbours,” said Christine, an inhabitant of Draguignan. “It wasn’t a flood, it was a catastrophe.”

According to Meteo France, the national forecaster, the region has not seen such floods since 1827.

Brice Hortefeux, the interior minister, described them as “an unprecedented catastrophe for the region” and said that the death toll could rise.

The floods also struck the popular tourist town of Fréjus, where more than 1,500 people were taken to safety in inflatable boats or by helicopter airlift to four shelters. Tourists were among those trapped by the floods, in particular in campsites along the Argens river.

Firefighters rushed to prize people from their cars, houses or rooftops and searched for missing people.

“This morning, we woke up to find a city that was devastated, extremely battered with overturned cars floating in the streets, collapsed roads and gutted houses,” said the head of the emergency operation, Corinne Orzechowski. Read more:


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