Several people were missing Saturday after violent weather lashed the south-eastern French department of Alpes-Maritimes, with floodwaters sweeping away houses and leaving thousands without electricity.
Bridges collapsed and roads were submerged as Storm Alex tore through the French Riviera and Nice hinterlands, bringing downpours of up to 450mm – the equivalent of a year’s worth of rain, Le Parisien reported.
Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi – who has described the situation as a “natural disaster” – on Saturday tweeted that two bodies had been found and identified, though the information has not been confirmed and his tweet was later deleted.
While the deluge has eased and a red level alert lifted, flooding and landslides have caused extreme damage and left villages cut off from the world.
"Currently we have nine people reported missing and three people suspected to be missing," firefighters told AFP on Saturday morning.
Prime Minister Jean Castex travelled to the area along with Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin and are to survey the Vésubie Valley by helicopter.
French President Emmanuel Macron also tweeted his thoughts "to the victims of storm Alex, and to their loved ones”, adding that “together we will overcome this ordeal".
Two firefighters were among the missing, after being trapped by water in their vehicle in Bollène-Vésubie around 11pm.
A policeman who was reported missing in Saint-Martin-Vésubie, where this before-and-after photo shows the extent of the devastation, has since been found safe, confirmed Alpes-Maritimes MP Eric Ciotti, who flew over the disaster zone by helicopter.
Some 850 firefighters have been sent to the area, including 348 external reinforcements, announced the Alpes-Maritimes Departmental Fire and Rescue Service.
Helicopters took off early on Saturday morning to carry out reconnaissance as weather conditions eased.
People in fragile health or whose houses have been seriously damaged were to be evacuated to the coast.