Up to 17 people have been killed in flash floods on the French Riviera when two months’ rain fell in just two hours.France’s Alpes-Maritimes region, which lies on the Mediterranean coast bordering Italy, was hit by torrential rain on Saturday evening.
People were found dead in the towns of Cannes, Biot, Golfe-Juan and Mandelieu-la-Napoule near the border with Italy.
French President Francois Hollande went to the region with Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve.
Mr Hollande expressed his condolences to victims’ families, promised aid for residents and urged people to remain cautious, with many roads still impassable.
Mr Cazeneuve said there was “little hope” in finding alive at least six people who are still missing.
Pope Francis offered prayers for the victims during his blessing from St Peter’s Square in Rome, saying: “We express our nearness to the hard-hit populations, including with concrete forms of solidarity.”
It is understood four victims were killed at a Biot retirement home after the nearby River Brague burst its banks.
Others drowned in their cars after becoming stuck inside a tunnel, a woman in her 60s died on the street in Cannes and another victim died at a campsite in Antibes, where rescue helicopters airlifted others to safety from the rooftops of their caravans.
John Canavan was in Cannes as the flood hit and said: “It was slow in the beginning and, in an instant, it was ten times worse.
“Before we knew it, within 20 minutes, you couldn’t see the sidewalks even. There were rapids.”
French officials say the flooding closed the A8 motorway and Cannes railway station, while in Nice, a football game in the country’s first division was abandoned halfway through due to the rain.
Around 27,000 homes were left without electricity and, according to France 24, up to 500 tourists – mostly British and Danish nationals – were stuck overnight at Nice airport. Hundreds more were stranded for the night at a concert venue after attending a show by rocker Johnny Hallyday.
According to local radio station France Bleu-Azur, more than 17cm of rain fell on the Cannes region in two hours – the same amount the region would usually expect over two months.Some of the affected areas are still inaccessible, raising concerns there may be more casualties and further damage.