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Heavy flooding claims several lives in French Riviera

Torrential rains and flooding have left at least 17 people dead in southeastern France. Trains had to be stopped overnight, with hundreds of passengers left stranded aboard.

Flooding caused by heavy rain, accompanied by strong gusts of wind, killed at least 17 people, with four people still missing along the French Riviera overnight, emergency responders and local officials said on Sunday. Tens of thousands remained without power in Sunday.

One of the worst death tolls was in the small town of Mandelieu-la-Napoule on the Cote d'Azur, where five people were reported to have died in rising waters while trying to bring their cars to a safe location.

Three more drowned in their car when it got stuck in a tunnel in Vallauris-Golfe-Juan, near Cannes, emergency teams said.

Three residents in a retirement home died when the River Brague burst its banks in Biot, close to the city of Antibes, sending waves crashing into the building.

On Twitter, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls expressed his "profound emotion in view of the terrible consequences of the bad weather."

President Francois Hollande is expected to pay an emergency visit Sunday to promise government aid for victims.

French rail company SNCF said around a dozen trains had to be stopped, with stranded passengers being provided with food and blankets for the night. A number of camping grounds also needed to be evacuated, which in some cases required the use of helicopters to rescue people from the roofs of their caravans.

France's meteorological agency says the worst of the weather has now left the French mainland, and is headed for the Italian coast. Local authorities have, however, advised people in the region to avoid travel and not to use their cars.

About 27,000 homes were without electricity Sunday after rivers and streams burst their banks and fierce thunderstorms poured more than 17 centimeters (6.7 inches) of rain on the Cannes region in two hours Saturday night, the equivalent of two months of rainfall for the region, local radio France Bleu-Azur reported.

tj/rc (AP, dpa, AFP, Reuters)