15 die as storms trigger flash floods in France

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The Independent Online
PARIS - Violent storms triggered flash floods that killed at least 15 people in France, damaging roads, crops and homes, and forcing the evacuation of thousands from their homes.

Twelve people were killed in the Vaucluse region in south-east France where torrential rains caused rivers to flood towns, fields and homes. The town of Vaison-la-Romaine, 25 miles north of Avignon, was hit by violent winds, which toppled at least a dozen buildings, and by the Ouveze River which overflowed its banks. Eleven people were killed in the town of 5,000. Another 2,000 people were evacuated from the nearby town of Sarrians.

Vaucluse put an emergency plan into operation, bringing in about 300 civil rescue workers and six helicopters to shore up flooded areas and rescue stranded residents, many of whom had sought refuge in trees and on rooftops. Roads, electricity as well as water in Vaucluse were cut off, hampering rescue operations.

'It's the kind of storm you see only in 40 or 50 years,' said Jean- Claude Andrieu, mayor of Carpentras, a town in Vaucluse.

The weather agency Meteo-France issued warnings of further storms today all along France's southern coast and in eastern areas of the country.

Three people drowned in the Ardeche region just north of Vaucluse after the Ardeche River overflowed. Two women were caught in floodwaters from the Ardeche river and were swept away when they left their car. A farmer also drowned while he was trying to lead away horses from a field next to the Ardeche.

Four people were missing in Ardeche and the neighboring Drome region. Three others were reported seriously injured.

Several rivers in Ardeche and Drome had overflowed, covering roads and forcing the evacuation of campsites there and in nearby Lozere. High winds also blew off roofs and overturned vehicles.

A man and his son were swept away by suddenly rising waters and had not been located, and two other people were reported missing.

Winds in the Herault region near Montpellier were blamed for a traffic accident in which two people were seriously hurt. Several highways were closed in the region because of flooding and fallen trees.

In the Lot region north of Toulouse, roads were flooded. About three inches of rain fell in 12 hours, more than the average rainfall for all of September.

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