Rescue services step up search efforts on Roya Valley after storm causes major flooding on both sides of France-Italy border.
French authorities have deployed about 1,000 firefighters, four military helicopters and troops to search for at least eight people who are missing after devastating floods from record rains hit a mountainous border region with neighbouring Italy.
The storm moved overnight across southeast France and then struck northern Italy, causing major flooding on both sides of the border.
Emergency workers in Italy recovered two bodies on Sunday in northern Liguria that they feared may have been washed away as a result of the heavy downpours on Saturday.
In France, the storm ravaged several villages around the city of Nice on the French Riviera. Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi called it the worst flooding disaster in the area in more than a century.
“The roads and about 100 houses were swept away or partially destroyed,” he told French news channel BFM after flying over the worst-hit area by helicopter.
“I have been particularly shocked by what I saw today,” French Prime Minister Jean Castex told a news conference after visiting affected areas.
Rescue efforts were concentrated on the Roya Valley where firefighters hoped to find survivors and give assistance to people whose homes were destroyed or inaccessible.
About 10,500 homes were left without electricity, French energy company Enedis said. France declared the region a natural disaster zone.
In Italy’s Piedmont region, officials reported a record 630mm (24.8 inches) of rain in just 24 hours in Sambughetto, close to the border with Switzerland. The Piedmont regional chief, Alberto Cirio, called on the government to declare a state of emergency.
The water level in the River Po jumped by three metres (9.84 feet) in just 24 hours. Italian firefighters also rescued 25 people trapped on the French side of a high mountain pass due to the flooding.
In Venice, a long-delayed flood barrier system successfully protected the lagoon city from a high tide for the first time on Saturday, bringing big relief following years of repeated inundations.