25 dead in French Riviera floods, new thunderstorms forecast as residents mop up

PARIS (AP) — The death toll from flash floods in the hills above the French Riviera rose to 25 on Thursday as new thunderstorms threatened the picturesque region and cleanup efforts, officials said.

The rescue operations are finished and attention was turning Thursday to clean-up, the regional administration for the Var region said in a statement. The flooding that began Tuesday swept away trees and parts of houses in the hills behind a portion of the Riviera, and left cars stacked on top of each other in mud-clogged streets.

About a dozen people who had been reported missing Wednesday were accounted for Thursday, the administration said.

But the weather forecasting service Meteo France warned of thunderstorms Thursday that could bring new heavy rainfall or hail.

Efforts to restore electricity Thursday to the region failed, and more than 94,000 homes were still without power. Telephones and water service also were out in the town of Draguignan, the hardest-hit, as well as in neighboring towns. The Defense Ministry was helping bring drinking water to the region.

More than 1,400 people were evacuated by helicopter after the initial rains, including some people taken out of a flooded nursing home in Draguignan early Thursday, the regional administration said.

The administration of the Draguignan penitentiary center said 455 prisoners have been transferred to other jails in southern France, after waters rose to 3 meters (10 feet) inside the facility.

All schools in the Draguignan area were closed Thursday.

The national weather service said about 40 centimeters (16 inches) of rain have fallen in the hardest-hit area in June, an amount that normally falls there over a six-month period.