Deadly downpour wreaks havoc

Local media were able to capture the real impact of the severe conditions, like on France 3. Copyright France Télévisions
Local media were able to capture the real impact of the severe conditions, like on France 3 – © France Télévisions

At least two people have died in severe weather, that delivered around three months of rainfall in just three days. The clean up continues after thousands of people were evacuated, stranded or left without power.

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has visited the Var and announced a state of natural disaster will be declared as soon as possible.

Accounts from all over the Var and, to a lesser extent, the Alpes Maritimes, bear witness to the extent of the damage wrought by the severe weather from Thursday to Sunday. One resident, identified as Michelle, was trapped in her car as it was swept away by muddy waters, while another, Thierry, nearly fell 30 metres as the road collapsed beneath him, Nice Matin reports.

Sadly, some weren’t as lucky. A 72-year-old man died in his basement in La Londe in the Var, while a second victim was found trapped in his overflooded car in Pierrefeu. Yesterday evening, a man from La Londe went missing aboard his boat, but he was found safe shortly before 10pm, France 3 reports.

La Londe and Hyères were the worst hit, according to the prefecture of the Var. Since Friday, 1,000 fire fighters took part in at least 1,153 operations throughout the region.

La Londe recorded more than 200mm of rain – a two month average. Floods in Roquebrune came close to the levels recorded in 2011, surpassing that of 2008. Olivier Proust, forcaster at French weather service Météo France, told The Riviera Times, “The precipitations in the Alpes Maritimes were exceptional, with up to 244mm in Peille, equivalent to just under three normal months of rain.”

1,500 people were evacuated, including 216 by helicopter. The Alpes Maritimes had around 100 evacuations, mostly due to landslides, while 70 people remain stranded in Menton due to a major landslide. Ten houses are on the brink of collapsing due to unstable ground.

All of the evacuees were either able to return to their homes or relocated to relatives’ homes, a spokesperson from the emergency services told The Riviera Times.

600 people were also evacuated in Liguria, RTL reports.

According to Nice Matin, 7,000 people were left without electricity at some point during the weekend. Only 261 were still in the dark as of last night.

Over 30 roads in the Var and a dozen in the Alpes Maritimes were cut by landslides, leaving many stranded. At the Jean Franco high school in Saint Etienne de Tinée, 86 students were evacuated on Saturday evening. School was cancelled today but classes should return to normal tomorrow morning.

Though some showers are still expected today, the worst is over and the flood waters are starting to recede. Authorities have kept the Var in a state of orange alert however, advising everyone to stay vigilant.

In a show of support to the victims, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault and Minister of the Interior Manuel Valls visited the Var and told Var Matin the event would be declared a natural disaster “as soon as possible”, which would allow for a greater coverage by insurance companies. He has also called for authorities to “stop building in high risk areas”.

Eric Ciotti, president of the Alpes Maritimes general council, announced a potential three million euro aid package, and called for the Alpes Maritimes to be considered a natural disaster zone as well.

Also published on the Riviera Times Online