FLASH flooding around the French Riviera has killed at least 16 people, including some trapped in cars, a campsite and a retirement home.
Three elderly people drowned when their retirement complex near the city of Antibes was inundated with floodwater.
Others died trapped in their cars in tunnels and underground car parks as the waters rose.
French president Francois Hollande has announced a state of “natural disaster” in the affected region.
Torrents of muddy water inundated buildings, roads and railway tracks, disrupting car and train traffic along the Mediterranean coast.
Helicopters patrolled the area and 27,000 homes were without electricity yesterday after the Brague River overflowed its banks and fierce thunderstorms saw more than 17cm (6.7in) of rain fall on the Cannes region in two hours on Saturday night. That is the equivalent of two months of rainfall for the region, local radio France Bleu-Azur reported.
Mr Hollande said the overall death toll by midday yesterday was 16, with three people still missing. Government officials had given conflicting reports about casualty figures earlier in the day.
“It’s not over,” Mr Hollande said, visiting the flood-stricken retirement home in the town of Biot and meeting with emergency workers.
He expressed condolences to victims’ families and urged residents to remain cautious, especially on the region’s roads, many of which remained impassable. He promised aid for residents hit by the flooding and lamented serious damage to local stores and other businesses.
People were found dead in the towns of Cannes, Biot, Golfe-Juan and Mandelieu-la-Napoule in the south-east.
The interior ministry said the dead included victims who had been trapped in a car park, and others at a campsite and a retirement home. The exact circumstances of the deaths were unclear.
Several trains were stopped because of flooded tracks, and traffic remained stopped along the Mediterranean coast between Nice and Toulon yesterday morning, according to the SNCF rail authority. Several roads in the region were closed, including those into Cannes, which was particularly hard hit.
Winds and rain whipped palm trees along the famed Croisette seaside promenade in Cannes. In nearby Antibes, cars were overturned and roads were slick with mud. The flooding disrupted a league football match in Nice, forcing the stadium to shut down in the middle of play.
Hundreds of emergency workers were involved in rescue efforts, but some criticised authorities for not doing more to prevent flood damage in the region.
Pope Francis offered his prayers for the victims during his weekly Sunday blessing from St Peter’s Square.
“We express our nearness to the hard-hit populations, including with concrete forms of solidarity,” he said.
More than 17cm (6.7in) – the equivalent of two months’ worth – fell in only two hours
Some people died trapped in their cars in tunnels or underground car parks
No trains yesterday along Mediterranean coast between Nice and Toulon