NICE, France (June 16) -- Fifteen people were killed after freak flash floods hit the Var region in southeastern France overnight, officials
NICE, France (June 16) -- Fifteen people were killed after freak flash floods hit the Var region in southeastern France overnight, officials said
Thousands remained without electricity as the area braced for another storm forecast for tonight.
Rivers swollen by heavy rains flooded over and swept people to their deaths. Others perched atop cars and climbed on rooftops to escape the torrential
This morning, cars could be seen sticking up in the air and stacked on top of each other like props in a disaster movie. Some shops and homes in towns
such as Les Arcs sur Argens lay in ruins.
More than 1,500 police, firefighters and other rescue workers were dispatched to the area, and 11 helicopters were used in the rescue effort.
The rain caused local rivers to rise more than seven feet in minutes, trapping hundreds inside their cars. Seven inches of rain fell in less than 12
hours, officials said. The rescue effort went on Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning.
"It hit us by surprise," Vincent Barastier, a spokesman for the Var Prefecture, told AOL News today. "This kind of terrible storm is very rare
More than 1,000 people were forced to leave their homes Tuesday night, and 175,000 were initially without power. Twelve people were reported missing
but had been located by Wednesday night, Barastier said.
Schools in the area were closed Wednesday, and thousands still had no electricity this afternoon, Barastier said. Images of Var residents working to
clear away mud and debris from their homes and the streets filled French television today.
The town of Draguignan in the Var, a region that lies between Marseilles and Nice, was the hardest hit. The resort of St. Tropez, which is also
located in the Var, sustained much less damage in the storm, Barastier said.
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have leased a large chateau in the Var, but there were no reports of damage near their home.
President Nicolas Sarkozy issued a statement saying that his "first thoughts go out to the victims" and said the country felt a "solidarity with
the inhabitants of the Var region, who have had to go through this very difficult natural disaster."
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