Nine die in multiple drownings as stormy weather lashes southern France

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Nine people have died in multiple drownings off southern France as stormy weather caused treacherous conditions at sea.

Five died in the Herault region on Wednesday, two in Aude and two in Bouches-du-Rhone.

It comes as strong wind and rain continue to hit the south of the country.

The victims in Herault were between 64 and 73, according to France's BFMTV, and were swimming at beaches off Grande-Mott, Agde, Marseillan, Vias and Serignan.

"I cannot understand how people got in the water when the sea is rough. It's a dramatic day for our region," Vias mayor Jordan Dartier told French media.

Seven rescues also reportedly took place in the region, which was under an orange weather alert on Wednesday.

In nearby Bouches-du-Rhone, a 58-year-old man died in Cassis and a 71-year-old in La Ciotat.

The deaths in Aude were in the Leucate commune.

Authorities said the drownings may have been caused by hidden currents which can drag swimmers out to sea and leave them too exhausted to make it back to shore.

Firefighters in Herault said more stormy weather was on the way and warned people to stay out of the sea.

Heavy rain and thunderstorms have caused flooding in southern France, with a few places over the past week getting the equivalent of two months' rain in a few hours.

Videos on social media have showed torrential downpours in the city of Nimes and flooded streets in Calvisson.

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