Deadly rainstorms sweep northern Italy, southern France

VENICE, Italy (AFP) — Torrential rains across northern Italy and southern France killed three people at the weekend, sweeping away part of a motorway viaduct in northern Italy and causing fresh flooding in Venice on Sunday.

The rains, which left at least three people dead and two missing across the two countries, were the latest in a two-week wave of extreme weather in the region.

Part of a viaduct serving Italy’s A6 motorway near Savona in the northern region of Liguria running between Turin and France was washed away by what appeared to be a mudslide, leaving a 30-meter (100-foot) gap in the road.

The emergency services did not immediately find any victims at the site, but sniffer dogs and helicopters were checking the area.

Pictures of the damage revived memories of the 2018 collapse of the Morandi bridge at Genoa, only 50 kilometers (30 miles) away, which claimed 43 lives.

In the Piedmont region, a 52-year-old woman who was missing after her car was swept away when a river burst its banks was found dead Sunday. Local media reported that two other people in the car had managed to escape in time.

The worst-hit region in Italy was Alessandria, south of Turin, where 200 people were evacuated and 600 left stranded. One woman was reported missing, Italian media said.

Another 500 people were evacuated further north in the Aosta Valley, where roads were closed because of the risk of avalanches.

Venice under water again 

On the east coast, Venice was again hit by the floods that have paralyzed the city in recent days, though the levels were well off the historic peak reached on November 12.

The floodwaters in St Mark’s Square in the city center were at knee-height and were beginning to recede by the afternoon.

Venice’s mayor has said the damage of the flooding earlier in the month could amount to one million euros, blaming the near-record water level rise on climate change.

The recent flooding of the city, a UNESCO World Heritage site, damaged dozens of churches.

The latest floods came as environmental activists staged a demonstration protesting the city’s inadequate flood protection program and calling for a ban on the massive cruise ships that visit the Renaissance city.

Ecologists argue that the development of the large industrial port of Marghera, opposite Venice, was also taking a cost.

Two dead in France 

In France, two people died and at least one was missing as high floodwaters swamped cars and turned roads into rivers.

One body was found in the village of Le Muy, just north of France’s Mediterranean coast, local officials in the southern Var region said.

It was found near where a rescue dinghy carrying three members of the fire brigade and three civilians had capsized on Saturday, with one of the civilians subsequently reported missing.

The second body, of a man in his 50s, was found in the village of Cabasse in a car, the local authorities said, without giving further details.

Another man, in his 70s, was still missing in the village of Saint-Antonin-du-Var after going out during the night amid heavy rain.

The southeastern regions of Alpes-Maritimes and Var have since Friday been hit by torrential rainstorms that also caused huge waves in seaside areas.

A woman aged 39 was badly injured on Saturday and hospitalized after being swept away by a wave, the fire service said.

The town of Roquebrune-sur-Argens in the Var region was particularly badly affected and only accessible by boat or helicopter, the local authorities said.

Some 4,500 households have been left without electricity throughout the two regions.

The senior official for the Var region, Jean-Luc Videlaine, told AFP that the rains had been of “historic” intensity, adding that the damage would be “considerable”.

Although water levels were now going down, he added that the situation was “far from returning to normal”.

In some areas of the Var region, the equivalent of two or three months of rain fell in just 24 or 48 hours.

© Agence France-Presse