Monday, November 29, 1999

19 dead as heavy rains pelt southern France

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Paris, June 17 (DPA) At least 19 people have died after torrential rains lashed parts of southern France, media reports said Wednesday.According to Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux, who visited the affected region, the toll could rise as several people were still reported missing.All of the fatalities occurred in the southeastern region of Var, where some 200,000 households lost electricity during the storm. By late Wednesday, power had been restored to about half of those residences.More than 1,000 people had to be rescued by helicopter from their homes because of the swiftly rising floodwaters, which roared through several cities in the region, sweeping away cars and knocking over trees.Some 300 millimetres of rain fell over a 16-hour period in the city of Draguignan, where streets were inundated with water up to two metres deep.The 436 inmates of the prison at Draguignan had to be evacuated and transferred to other facilities because of the flooding.In addition, travellers were stranded in railway stations and flooded roads throughout the region were littered with abandoned automobiles.As rain eased in the region Wednesday, the national weather service Meteo France forecast more rainfall there overnight to Thursday.In addition, the service issued an alert for heavy rains for areas in southwestern France.

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