Hundreds of firefighters were mobilized on Saturday to find eight people missing after torrential rains and brutal floods that washed away houses and left villages cut off from the world in valleys in the hinterland of Nice, in the south-east of France.
“Currently, we are on a balance sheet of nine people proven to be missing and three supposed missing,” firefighters told AFP.
In the case of people “supposedly missing”, the authorities have only rather vague reports, unlike other cases where witnesses or firefighters have directly seen the people carried away by the waves.
Among those missing are two firefighters and a gendarme, as well as two people who were allegedly swept away by the waves when their house collapsed.
The most affected municipalities are in the hinterland of Nice, in the Roya valleys, in the Tende area and in the Vésubie valley, landlocked in mountainous areas of the Alps.
“We have many houses that have been washed away or destroyed, towns like Saint-Martin-Vésubie are cut off from the world,” firefighters told AFP.
In this village of some 1,400 inhabitants, where a bridge was washed away on Friday, firefighters carried out dozens of safety measures during the night, they said.
The telephone network is weak and communications are very difficult. Thousands of homes are deprived of electricity, according to network manager Enedis.
Helicopters attempted to reconnoitre in the morning, but the cloud cover prevented them from having a clear vision, although Météo France has lifted its orange vigilance on the department and the rains have ended.
Many roads in the region are still cut off, either because they were gutted or because of the risk of landslides.
Risk of landslide
At the Col de Turini, about ten kilometers from Bollène-Vésubie, the road was closed because of the risk of landslide, noted an AFP correspondent.
Fire trucks, some loaded with boats, awaited the green light before passing to reach the disaster areas of the valley. Along the road, torn branches testified to the violence of the bad weather the day before.
The accumulations of rain over the whole of this episode “generally reached 200 to 350 mm and up to 500 mm occasionally”, in the hinterland, according to Météo France, which led to violent floods of course. water in the area.
In the city of Nice, also affected by strong winds and downpours, accommodation centers welcomed a few people who could not reach the valleys overnight.
“Where I was there were about 40 cars. People from all the valleys. Now people, we don’t know where they are. There are some who are on the side of the road, there are some who are in hotels. And then we meet here, ”testified to AFP Grégory, a resident of Touët-sur-Var, hosted in one of these centers.
The Nice region was badly affected in the fall of 2019 by bad weather which had killed 14 people in two weeks in the south-east of France. In October 2015, storms of rare intensity had killed 20 people in spectacular floods, especially in Mandelieu-la-Napoule and Cannes, where many people had been trapped in parking lots.
Cannes town hall postponed a ceremony scheduled for Saturday to pay tribute to the victims of this tragedy.