Massive clean-up after 19 killed in French Riviera floods

Volunteers and firefighters began the gruelling task on Monday of cleaning up French Riviera towns strewn with mud and debris, as the death toll from floods which tore through the normally glitzy region rose to 19.

Massive clean-up after 19 killed in French Riviera floods

Biot: Volunteers and firefighters began the gruelling task on Monday of cleaning up French Riviera towns strewn with mud and debris, as the death toll from floods which tore through the normally glitzy region rose to 19.

Citizens of Britain, Italy and Portugal were among those who died when a torrential weekend downpour trapped people in garages and retirement homes in Mediterranean resort towns beloved by jet-setting tourists.

Water gushed through the streets of Cannes, Nice and Antibes, leaving cars including Porsches and Ferraris scattered about, often upside down and hundreds of metres from where they were parked.

Another person was found dead Monday in the worst-hit town of Mandelieu-la-Napoule, with eight now confirmed killed there after being trapped in garages when they tried to remove their cars, a local official said.

And in Cannes a body was found in an underground parking lot, leaving one person still missing in the city that hosts the annual film festival, with another missing in nearby Antibes.

Mandelieu-la-Napoule mayor Henri Leroy on Sunday described the situation as "apocalyptic".

Britain's Foreign Office said a British national had died in the floods, without giving further details, while a local official said an Italian woman and Portuguese man also died.

In the town of Biot, about 40 kilometres (25 miles) from Monte Carlo where three people drowned in a retirement home, hundreds of clean-up workers clad in diving suits and carrying chainsaws removed trees and debris strewn around a river.

As the Mediterranean sunshine returned, volunteers grabbed brooms and mops to help victims of the damage clean out thick layers of mud from their homes and businesses.

"It is everywhere, it smells bad and it seeps into everything. It is making the furniture swell up," said one local, who did not give her name.

Some 9,000 households in the region still had no electricity after the record rainfall that saw 180 millimetres (seven inches) of water fall on Cannes alone -- nearly two months' worth in three hours.

President Francois Hollande toured the region, where he said a state of natural catastrophe would be declared Wednesday to allow emergency funds to be channelled to the devastated region.

As criticism grew over the fact the region had been placed only on "orange alert" status ahead of the storm -- short of the top level of readiness -- meteorologists were called onto local television stations to explain how their systems had failed to raise the alarm ahead of the torrential downpour.

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