Severe storms have raged around the French metropolis of Nice and in the neighboring north of Italy. At least eight people are missing. The consequences of the floods are enormous.
Flooded villages, houses torn away, roads blocked: storms and floods have created chaotic conditions in the hinterland of the southern French holiday metropolis of Nice. At least eight people were missing. There was no news from many others, French Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Saturday. There is “grave concern about the closing balance”.
The situation in neighboring northern Italy was also dramatic. Two people were murdered there. A volunteer firefighter from Arnad Municipality in the Aosta Valley was killed in a rescue operation from a fallen tree, Ansa news agency reports. In Piedmont, according to the agency, a man got into the car at Vercelli at night in the waters of the Sesia River – he was washed away. Flooded rivers and fallen trees also caused serious damage in Liguria. Countless people were missing. Many households were without electricity.
Paris wants to declare a disaster
Castex and French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin had rushed to the south of France to get a sense of the affected department of Alpes-Maritimes. Castex assured the population of support; next Wednesday, the cabinet will announce a state of disaster for the affected communities.
The Mayor of Nice, known throughout the country, Christian Estrosi, was visibly affected: “We are facing an accident that I have never seen in the (Département) Alpes-Maritimes.” According to the media, the conservative politician announced that the army should be deployed in the region. According to Estrosi, about 100 houses have been destroyed or damaged in the region.
MEP Éric Ciotti talked about “horror scenes”. His native village of Saint-Martin-Vésubie in the mountains north of Nice was partially destroyed. According to the media, the cemetery has been snatched from the city.
German hikers are doing well
Many roads in the region with deep-cut mountain valleys were no longer passable. Villages were cut off from the outside world. Thousands of households were without electricity. Flight operations at Nice airport are back to normal, the airport announced via Twitter.
In the northern Italian region of Piemonte, authorities have temporarily reported about 20 missing persons. Not even a German trekking group initially contacted a hotelier who would pick them up after a multi-day trip in Terme di Valdieri. The hikers were discovered by the mountain rescue team in a cabin and taken to safety. In the Aosta Valley, some places were temporarily closed to traffic after landslides and bridge damage.
Since Friday evening there have been hundreds of emergency operations in the Italian storm areas. Tunnels were flooded and roads had to be closed. The Piedmont province of Cuneo was hit particularly hard. On Saturday morning the weather had calmed down a bit in many parts of the northwest on the French border, the TV said.
Venice closes the bulkheads
The bad weather front also moved towards Veneto. In Venice, the new Mose flood protection system was put into operation, as Ansa wrote. The gates of the water locks at the openings of the lagoon have been put into use. The newly built system has been extensively tested in recent months. It should prevent heavy flooding in the lagoon city.
French President Emmanuel Macron offered his condolences via Twitter to the people affected by the autumn storm “Alex”. The storm had caused significant damage in Brittany in the northwest of the country. “Together we will pass this test,” wrote the 42-year-old.
Severe storms are not uncommon in the south of France. In the fall of last year, 14 people were killed. Exactly five years ago, severe storms hit the densely populated Côte d’Azur, when 20 people were killed. Nice and the Côte d’Azur are especially popular with holidaymakers in the summer months, also from Germany. However, the Corona crisis has affected tourism since spring, which is an important source of income for the region.