At least 19 people have been killed in flash foods in France, after unusually heay rain trapped residents in their homes and vehicles. The death toll could rise, said one official.
Unusually heavy rains have transformed streets into rivers
At least 19 people have been killed in flash floods in southern France, according to regional authorities, and at least seven more people are missing following unusually heavy rain.
Rescue workers in the Var region used helicopters to airlift more than 1,000 people to safety as waters rose rapidly, trapping residents in their homes, in vehicles and on rooftops.
The town of Draguignan, near the Mediterranean Sea, was badly hit, with hundreds of vehicles swept away and several neighbourhoods were left underwater, said local prefect Hughes Parant.
The floods are the region's worst in over 200 years
More than 35 centimeters (14 inches) of rain fell in Var within the space of several hours, beginning on Tuesday. Floodwaters in the town of Draguignan rose to about two meters (6.5 feet).
Visit to assess damage
The death toll has climbed since Wednesday, and is expected to increase.
"I fear the (death) toll will go higher," said Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux, who visited the area to asses the damage.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is expected to visit the region next week, expressed his condolences to residents.
Sarkozy is to visit the region early next week
Meteorologist said the flooding was the worse the region had seen since 1827. The SNCF rail authority halted train service between Toulon and Nice until Friday.
The weather service Meteo France said more could fall Thursday. The service also issued a heavy rain alert for parts of southwestern France.
Sarah Harman (AP/AFP/Reuters)
Editor: Chuck Penfold