Fierce Torrential Rains in French Riviera Cause Deadly Flash Flooding
Photo via Twitter/janinthesky
A brief but incredibly intense storm slammed the French Riviera with deadly force Saturday night, causing what residents call the worst flooding they’ve ever seen, the Associated Press reported.
Local firefighters and meteorologists were “shocked by the intensity and speed of the storm,” the AP said.
Rivers and streams overflowed as more than 6.7 inches of rain fell amid thunder and lightning in Cannes and other areas, the Interior Ministry said, per the AP.
Radio France Bleu-Azur reported, according to the AP, that the Cannes region saw two months worth of rainfall in just two hours.
The AP noted that the iconic tourist area has seen an increasing amount of flooding in recent years — which has caused some residents to criticize authorities for not doing more to prevent flood damage there.
The epochal nature of the flooding had French President Francois Hollande making an emergency visit Sunday, as The Telegraph puts the latest death toll at 17.
Hollande extended his condolences to the families of the victims. The president’s comments were made in a meeting with emergency workers at a flooded retirement home in the town of Biot — where three people lost their lives, the AP said.
He promised aid for affected residents and was upset that local stores and other businesses sustained serious damage.
"It's not over," Hollande declared, the AP said, referring to rescue and recovery efforts.
Authorities in Golfe-Juan said, via the AP, that three individuals were found dead in a flooded tunnel, still in their vehicle, while Interior Ministry spokesperson Pierre-Henry Brandet said the dead included those trapped in a parking lot and campsites.
Seven died when they tried to remove their automobiles from an apartment building’s underground parking lot in Mandelieu-la-Napoule, the Telegraph said, and deaths were also reported in Antibes and Cannes.
The AP noted that as home, stores and overturned cars were searched by emergency services, and helicopters patrolled, conflicting casualty figures were being reported.
Transportation across the French Riviera by road, rail and air was affected by the storm.
At the meeting in Biot, Hollande urged caution, especially on the roads with many still impassable or closed as of Sunday, the AP said.
Rising water threw automobiles around like toys. According to the AP, cars parked near the shore in Cannes were swept up by high waves and overturned, while in nearby Antibes, cars at campsites on the Brague River were flipped upside down as the area was inundated.
Flooded tracks stopped rail traffic all day Sunday along the Mediterranean between Nice and Toulon, the AP stated. This was most troubling for the approximately 2,500 Italian pilgrims headed back from the Marian shrine in Lourdes. This destination is a draw for Catholic faithful, who are seeking cures for ailments, and many of the pilgrims stuck on the stalled train are sick and disabled, the AP said — some even on stretchers, accommodated in specially outfitted cars.
Unitalsi, the Italian group that arranges these trips for the sick and disabled, said in a statement, via the AP, that the pilgrims were in good spirits, but further delays are a concern for the dialysis patients.
"The sick are being cared for and their trip has been going on for 15 hours, but thanks to the help of all the volunteers on board the situation is under control," the head of Unitalsi, Salvatore Pagliuca, said in the statement, per the AP.
After several hours, the five trains got moving again, according to the Unitalsi Facebook page.
The Telegraph said about 500 people, mostly British and Danish tourists, were stranded at Nice airport when the storm hit, but arrivals and departures are occurring there Sunday, according to the airport website.
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