Three French rescuers die in helicopter crash in flood-hit south
Three French emergency workers were killed when their helicopter crashed while on a mission to rescue victims of severe flooding in the south of France as a new spate of bad weather claimed two more lives, officials said on Monday.
Eleven people have now been killed in the last 10 days in southeastern France, which has been battered by two successive Mediterranean storms marked by torrential rain, heavy flooding and high winds.
Their EC145 helicopter lost radio and radar contact while on a rescue and reconnaissance flight in the Var region Sunday night.
The three — a pilot, a technician and a rescue specialist from the fire brigade — were found dead at 1:30 am (00:30 GMT) near the town of Rove, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said in a statement.
Investigators are trying to determine the circumstances of the crash. Fog might have caused bad visibility at the time.
President Emmanuel Macron said in a message on Twitter that the whole country supported the rescuers’ families and colleagues.
The crash came as Macron was due to honour 13 French soldiers who died when their helicopters collided in Mali last week in an operation against jihadists.
“While France is preparing today to pay tribute to 13 of its soldiers who died serving it (in Mali), our country is losing three everyday heroes who gave their lives to protect the French,” Castaner said.
Two other people were killed on Sunday by the floods in the French Riviera region, which has been hit by torrential rains a week after extreme weather left six dead.
In the Var region, a shepherd was swept away as he was trying to cross a river in his jeep while tending to his flock.
His body was found in his vehicle late Sunday night about 300 metres (330 yards) downstream from where he was last seen, the prefecture said early Monday.
Elsewhere in the region, a stable owner was found dead two hours after he was also washed away while out watching over his animals, it said.
The Var and the neighbouring Alpes-Maritimes region were on red alert for floods, which disrupted train services and cut the A8 motorway for four hours Sunday evening.
Many cultural and sporting events were also called off due to the bad weather, including Paris Saint-Germain’s Ligue 1 match at Monaco.