The death toll in the French Riviera flash floods has risen to 16 as of Sunday afternoon. With 5 more people still missing, there is potential for that number to climb even higher. The French government has officially declared a natural disaster in the area, which is a popular tourist destination.
The torrential rainfall began Saturday evening in the Alpes-Maritimes administrative region. Local towns were flooded and traffic flow was significantly disrupted.
The victims include three residents of a retirement home in the village of Biot, and five people in the town of Mandelieu-la-Napoule who were attempting to reach their cars when the flooding struck.
Cannes, the town popular for its prestigious film festival, was significantly impacted by flood waters. Two people were killed in the resort town, the train station was flooded and cars were washed down streets by the mass amounts of rainfall. At the height of the storm, Cannes received 180 millimeters (7.1 inches) of rain in just three hours.
Local rail service was suspended overnight, delaying many passengers including 2,000 Italian pilgrims who were returning from Lourdes. Train service resumed on Sunday, but is expected to remain limited for the remainder of the day.
As of Sunday, several roads remained blocked and thousands of homes in the area were still without power. Up to 70,000 homes had suffered blackouts the previous evening, according to power network operator ERDF.
French President Francois Hollande visited the flooded area on Sunday and announced that the government would approve natural disaster status for the region at Wednesday’s cabinet meeting. He pledged that the government would provide relief payments to help with the region’s recovery within the next three months.
Flights headed for the Nice airport on Saturday evening were diverted, leaving many passengers stranded overnight. A soccer match between Nice and Nantes was abandoned mid-way through due to the storm, and hundred of concert-goers were stranded overnight at a venue in Nice after a concert by French rock legend Johnny Hallyday.
Hundreds of police and fire rescue workers have been deployed as part of the search and rescue effort. Several police teams were also drafted to guard shopping areas after several incidents of looting were reported overnight.