SAINT-MARTIN-VESUBIE, France (AP) — A van clings to the edge of an Alpine ravine, tossed by an exceptional storm. A tattered French flag hangs off a tree uprooted by vicious floods. Emergency medics treat injured residents in a brasserie converted into a field hospital.
With at least 12 dead and others missing, France and Italy are still assessing damage and cleaning up after violent rains that began Friday, sweeping away homes and unearthing bodies from cemeteries.
French President Emmanuel Macron is visiting the mountainous area near the Mediterranean coast Wednesday, and promised government aid to flood victims.
“The nation will not abandon any of its territories, any of its children,” he said in a Facebook post before the trip. “Together we will surmount this.”
Still reeling days later, residents described to The Associated Press what they called the worst flooding in their lifetimes.
In the village of Saint-Martin-Vesubie, dogs barked frantically as their owners muzzled them to board evacuation helicopters for the city of Nice. One man sent his family to safety while he stayed behind to try to sort out an insurance claim, in hopes of some compensation for the damage to his home.
Residents gathered outside the town hall, hugging and trying to console each other. Someone set up a barbecue while people waited to be evacuated, grilling sausages for the group. Across the street, the town brasserie is now a field hospital and resting point for rescuers and medics working in the area. Outside one home, a van hung precariously on the edge of a cliff.
In Breil-sur-Roya, someone rescued a French tricolor flag from a bridge nearly wiped away by the floods, and hung it to dry on the remains of a tree felled by the storm. Mud caked everything — cars, dishes, floors and walls.
Four deaths have been reported in France, and eight in Italy since the storm pounded France’s Alpes-Maritimes region and Italy’s northwestern regions of Liguria and Piedmont. The Alpes-Maritimes regional administration said about 20 people were still missing Wednesday.
The French prime minister said more than 900 rescuers, 500 police officers and some troops were involved in the emergency operation in the mountainous region, which is home to 12,000 residents.