Two dead and nine missing as torrential rain hits parts of France and Italy

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PARIS / ROME (Reuters) – Two people have died and nine people are missing in France and Italy after a storm hit border regions of the two countries, causing record rainfall in places and causing heavy flooding that swept through the regions. roads and damaged homes, authorities said on Saturday.

The storm, called Alex, ravaged several villages around the city of Nice on the French Riviera. The mayor of Nice, Christian Estrosi, called it the worst flood disaster in the region in more than a century after he flew over the worst affected area by helicopter.

“The roads and a hundred houses were washed away or partially destroyed,” he told French news channel BFM.

“I was particularly shocked by what I saw today,” French Prime Minister Jean Castex said at a press conference after visiting the affected areas, adding that he feared the number of deaths does not increase.

At least eight people were reported missing in France, authorities said. These include two firefighters whose vehicle was swept away by a swollen river, according to local witnesses cited by several French media.

Television footage from the two countries showed that several roads and bridges were washed away by the floodwaters and that many rivers had burst from their banks.

In Italy, at least two people have died – one a firefighter hit by a falling tree and another a man in his 30s whose car was dragged into a river after a road collapsed , said local authorities.

By nightfall, an Italian was still missing, while 16 other people earlier feared they were missing, including a group of six German hikers, had all been found to safety.

Officials in the Piedmont region reported a record 630 mm (24.8 inches) of rain in just 24 hours in Sambughetto, near the border with Switzerland. Piedmont regional leader Alberto Cirio called on the government to declare a state of emergency.

The water level of the Po River jumped 3 meters (9.84 feet) in just 24 hours.

Eric Ciotti, a member of the French parliament from one of the region’s most affected villages, Saint-Martin-Vésubie, said several villages had been cut because they are located in the steep valleys of the mountainous region.

Météo France said rainfall of 500 mm (19.69 inches) of rain was recorded over 24 hours in Saint-Martin-Vésubie and nearly 400 mm in several other cities – the equivalent of more than three months of rain at this time of year. .

There was more rainfall than on October 3, 2015, when flooding killed 20 people in and around the city of Cannes on the French Riviera, Jérémy Crunchant, director of the French Riviera, told France Info. civil protection.

In Venice, a long-delayed flood barrier system managed to protect the lagoon city from a high tide for the first time on Saturday, bringing great relief after years of repeated flooding.

Reporting by Tangi Salaün in Paris and Crispian Balmer in Rome; Writing by Mathieu Rosemain; Editing by Louise Heavens and Frances Kerry

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