TWO people are dead as thousands of residents hit by floodwaters and mudslides in the Var start clearing up the debris left by nearly 200mm of rain – twice the January average.
This morning Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault was visiting the scene of the devastation which had left 5,000 homes without power, dozens of roads blocked in the Var and neighbouring Alpes-Maritimes and 155 people airlifted to safety.
Mr Ayrault promised that the declaration of a catastrophe naturelle, which allows easier insurance claims, will be made “as soon as possible”.
He and Interior Minister Manuel Valls flew over the devastated department this morning with floods as far as the eye could see from Roquebrune to Hyères. The worst affected areas were Hyères, Pierrefeu, Collobrières, Le Lavandou, Bormes-les-Mimosas and La Londe-les-Maures.
The Var, Bouches-du-Rhône and Gard are on orange alert for flooding until tomorrow morning although the heavy rains alert has been eased.
Emmanuel Dupuis, from Var prefecture, said that the worst was over but the situation was still very delicate. “The ground is saturated and any rain will mean more damage.”
Two men died in the floods at La Londe-les-Maures, with one being killed in his cellar and the other when his car was swept away. Another local man was reported missing after his boat overturned but was later said to be safe.
One resident of La Londe told France Info: “We saw a massive torrent of water coming towards us, red water filled with mud.”
Further east, in Alpes-Maritimes, the access roads to the ski stations of Auron and Isola 2000 were blocked when 150m3 of rock collapsed onto the road at Saint-Étienne-de-Tinée.