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Fifteen killed as floods hit southern France


Fifteen people have been killed in south-eastern France after torrential rains triggered flash flooding in the department of Var. The SNCF rail authority has halted train services between Toulon and Saint-Raphael until Thursday, saying three-kilometres of tracks are completely flooded.


Overnight in Var, rescue workers helped hundreds of people trapped in their vehicles, houses or on rooftops.

"We haven't seen anything like this in a decade," said the top official for the Var department, Hugues Parant.

Meanwhile helicopters were sent in to airlift residents to safety in Draguignan, a town of 40,000 off the Mediterranean coast.

The head of the emergency operation, Corinne Orzechowski, said more than 30 centimetres of rain had fallen since Tuesday, causing water to rise to alarming levels in Draguignan.

"This morning, we woke up to find a city that was devastated, extremely battered with overturned cars floating in the streets, collapsed roads and gutted houses," said Orzechowski.

Although the water has dropped slightly in Draguignan, rains are still battering nearby towns of Roquebrune and Frejus, not far from the Riviera resort of Saint-Tropez.

Up to 200,000 homes were without electricity and the rising waters also trapped a high speed train travelling from Nice to Lille with 300 passengers on board.

President Nicolas Sarkozy issued a statement expressing condolences for the victims' families and support for rescue teams who are "mobilising non-stop to provide aid and find those still missing".

Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux was due to visit the devastated area later Wednesday.

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