Two people are dead and several still missing Sunday after violent weather lashed the French-Italian border regions, causing raging floods that destroyed roads and swept away dozens of houses.
Rescuers are searching for eight people in the French department of Alpes-Maritimes, where Storm Alex tore through the Riviera and Nice hinterlands in what Mayor Christian Estrosi called the worst flooding disaster for more than a century.
Nearly a thousand firefighters have been sent to the region and 12 rescue helicopters “mobilised in rotation”, as emergency services continue to receive reports of “supposedly missing” residents.
Locating those missing and delivering drinking water to villages that have been cut off are the major priorities, said Departmental Council president Charles-Ange Ginésy.
“We are gradually discovering that there are more and more missing people … the situation is worrisome,” Ginésy told journalists.
Two firefighters whose vehicle was swept away by a swollen river in Bollène-Vésubie remain missing.
While the deluge has eased and a red level alert lifted, flooding brought on by “the equivalent of a year’s worth of rain” triggered landslides that caused extreme damage.
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.
"I have been particularly shocked by what I saw today," French Prime Minister Jean Castex told a news conference after surveying the Vésubie Valley by helicopter.
On the other side of the Alps, Italian authorities in Piedmont reported at least two deaths – a fireman hit by a falling tree and man in his 30s whose car was swept into a river.
With 17 people still missing, Piedmont regional chief Alberto Cirio called on the government to declare a state of emergency.
Officials in region reported a record 630mm of rain in just 24 hours in Sambughetto, close to the border with Switzerland.