The army has been deployed in France and rescue teams are hunting for survivors in Italy after torrential rain and winds from Storm Alex left two dead and 20 missing.
Breil-sur-Roya, a French village close to the Italian border, was a scene of devastation with houses buried in mud and turned-over cars stuck in the riverbed.
In northwestern Italy the ‘historic’ flooding destroyed a section of a bridge over the Sesia river.
French Prime Minister Jean Castex has deployed the army as 20 people on his side of the border remain unaccounted for after the flash floods washed away houses and triggered landslides.
A pile of vehicles on a street in Breil-sur-Roya, south-eastern France, on Sunday after extensive flooding caused widespread damage in the Alpes-Maritimes departement
A partially submerged hatchback in mud and debris in Breil-sur-Roya, south-eastern France on Sunday
People arrive at Nice airport after being rescued by the ‘Armee de Terre’ from floods in the south of France on Sunday
A worker digs out a vehicle from mud on a street in Breil-sur-Roya, south-eastern France, on October 4, 2020, after extensive flooding caused widespread damage in the Alpes-Maritimes departement
Residents clean a shop following a mudslide on October 4, 2020 in Garessio, Piedmont, after storms lashed the region. Two people died after storms lashed southern France and northern Italy, with roads and bridges damaged or destroyed and thousands left without power
A man walks past a pile of vehicles on a street in Breil-sur-Roya, south-eastern France
‘There are very many people of whom we have no news,’ Castex said.
On the Italian side of the border several villages were also still cut off, and many roads blocked.
A 53-year-old firefighter died during a rescue mission in the Aosta Valley, and a 36-year-old man died after his car was swept away by a river in Piedmont.
French rescue efforts were concentrated on the Roya valley where around 1,000 firefighters backed up by helicopters and army units resumed their search hoping to find survivors, and giving assistance to people whose homes were destroyed or inaccessible.
A gendarme stands near a vehicle partially submerged in mud in Breil-sur-Roya, south-eastern France
Tourists have a drink while sitting at the table of flooded street cafe in Riva dell’Erbaria in Rialto, while the waters of the canal rise, in Venice, Italy
This general view shows a partially submerged vehicle in mud in Breil-sur-Roya, south-eastern France
People stand near a car partially submerged in mud in Breil-sur-Roya, south-eastern France, on October 4, 2020 villages and triggering landslips. (Photo by NICOLAS TUCAT / AFP) (Photo by NICOLAS TUCAT/AFP via Getty Images)
A worker looks at a mud covered street in Breil-sur-Roya, south-eastern France, on October 4
Storm Alex barrelled into France’s west coast on Thursday bringing powerful winds and rain across the country before moving into Italy, where regions across the north suffered an onslaught on Saturday.
‘What we are going through is extraordinary,’ the prefect of the Alpes-Maritimes region said Bernard Gonzalez.
‘We are used to seeing images of such disasters on other continents, sometimes with a lack of concern, but this here is something that affects us all,’ he said.
France has declared the region a natural disaster zone.
A gendarme stands amongst debris including vehicles in Breil-sur-Roya, south-eastern France
Residents look at a mud covered street in Breil-sur-Roya, south-eastern France, on October 4
A resident looks at a mud covered street in Breil-sur-Roya, south-eastern France
Local authorities gave shelter to some 200 people overnight, while food and thousands of bottles of water were being airlifted into remote villages cut off by the storms.
Gonzalez called on the families of the missing people not to give up hope.
‘Just because their loved ones haven’t been able to get in touch doesn’t mean that they have been taken by the storm,’ he said.
Residents clear a street following a mudslide on October 4, 2020 in Garessio, Piedmont, after storms lashed the region
Residents clean a street following a mudslide on October 4, 2020 in Garessio, Piedmont
A soldier carries packs of bottled water for residents in Breil-sur-Roya, south-eastern France
A police officer walks amongst vehicules submerged in mud in Breil-sur-Roya, south-eastern France
The shore area of Locarno is under water after the water level of Lake Maggiore rose to 195.47 meters due to the heavy rainfalls of the last few days, in Locarno, Switzerland
Many landline and some mobile phone services were disrupted, with some villages using satellite phones to communicate with rescue services.
Despite forecasts of more rain, rescue efforts were to continue throughout Sunday, Gonzalez said.
‘The helicopter procession will continue all day long,’ he said, adding however that the prospect of more heavy weather was ‘a worry’.