France-Italy floods: Graves unearthed by floodwaters in French cemeteries

At least 12 people have died and 21 more are still missing
At least 12 people have died and 21 more are still missing Copyright Daniel Cole/AP
Copyright Daniel Cole/AP
By Rachael Kennedy with AP
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The Italian authorities say they are not sure if some of the bodies are of those reported dead in the storms.


Destruction amid deadly flooding across France and Italy's Alpine regions has grown worse after fast-flowing waters were found to have unearthed corpses in several cemeteries.

A total of 12 people have been confirmed dead after storms hit the area this week, while French authorities are searching for 21 more people still missing.

Of the confirmed deaths, eight are said to be on the Italian side and four in France.

Meanwhile, local authorities in the French towns of Saint-Martin-de-Vesubie and Tende say their cemeteries have been partly washed away. But it is not clear how many bodies have been lost.

Nicolo' Campo/LaPresse
A house partially collapsed in the flooding in Limone Piemonte, northern ItalyNicolo' Campo/LaPresse

A spokeswoman for the Alpes-Maritimes regional administration confirmed a number of corpses had been discovered over the border in Italy, but was unable to say how many as it was not known whether this included the storm dead.

Remains have also been found on the Mediterranean shore, having been washed down the mountainside by severe flooding.

The spokeswoman, who could not be named due to official policy, added that the corpses would be in a much more advanced stage of decay than the bodies of recent victims — and, therefore, more easily distinguishable.

Italian authorities are yet to comment.

On Tuesday, French Prime Minister Jean Castex sent his condolences to "grieving families, those who are waiting to hear from their relatives or who have lost everything."

He said more than 900 rescuers, 500 police officers and some troops were working on the emergency operation underway in the region, which is home to 12,000 people and where French President Emmanuel Macron will visit later today.

Around 700 people are also currently staying in hotels or other accommodation after being evacuated.

Daniel Cole/AP
Breil-sur-Roya has been reduced to mud and debrisDaniel Cole/AP

According to a spokesperson for the national gendarme service, forensic police are currently working to identify the dead, while officers are knocking from door-to-door to check on updates about the missing.

In Breil-sur-Roya, one of the worst-affected areas, floodwaters turned the village of 2,000 residents into a mess of mud, rocks and debris.

Retired police officer George Pomarede said it was a "catastrophic situation" as he tried to clear his home of rubble.

"All of that is gone, no more campground, no stadium, no more swimming pool, no more shops, a hotel is gone ... entire houses swallowed by the floods.

"It’s a phenomenal disaster."

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