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2 dead, highway collapses as floods pound France, Italy

PARIS (AP) — At least two people were killed in France and a stretch of elevated highway collapsed in Italy as heavy rains pounded the region over the weekend, trapping travelers, downing trees and unleashing mudslides on picturesque sites along the Mediterranean shore.

A 30-meter (100-foot) section of highway along a viaduct near the flooded Italian coastal city of Savona collapsed Sunday, authorities said. In images carried on Italian television, rescuers could be seen searching the area for possible casualties. News reports said a landslide on a rain-soaked hillside might have triggered the collapse.

Flooding in Turin, a city in northwest Italy, prompted cancellation of a marathon. In France, the Nice airport was briefly closed Saturday. Rivers leading from the Alps to the French Riviera broke their banks, and sirens rang out in resort towns. Images on French media showed cars peeking above inundated streets and waves slamming onto roadsides.

A rescue boat sank while bringing three people to shore near the French town of Muy, and one of them died, the Var regional administration said. Another person was found dead in a car in the town of Cabasse.

French authorities are searching for two people missing in the floods, Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi said Sunday.

In Italy, rescuers searched Sunday for a woman swept away by the surging Bormida river in the north.

Rain-swollen rivers and flooded streets plagued Italy, where it has been raining, sometimes heavily, in much of the country nearly every day for about two weeks.

In Turin, the Po River overran its banks and flooded the medieval quarter and a popular riverside strolling area known as the Murazzi.

Some 150 people were evacuated from homes in Liguria, Italy’s hilly northwest coastal region. The region struggled with mudslides that blocked several roads, isolating hamlets. In Genoa, the region’s principal city, the charming neighborhood of Boccadasse, a former fishing village with pastel-painted houses, was flooded after the sea rushed over retaining walls and onto the seaside road.

Venice was partially flooded, but the high tide’s level of nearly 1.3 meters (4.3 feet) in late morning was not unusual for the lagoon city accustomed to the phenomenon of “acqua alta,’’ (high water). That level was nearly 60 centimeters (two feet) lower than the exceptionally high wind-driven tide that devastated the art-rich tourist destination earlier this month. Venetians and visitors walked on strategically placed raised walkways or sloshed in boots through water that quickly receded to mid-calf level, then ankle-level.

In parts of the south, cars churned through water higher than their tires, and several motorists had to be rescued from their vehicles in flooded streets in Reggio Calabria, a city in the southern ‘’toe’’ of the Italian boot-shaped peninsula, RAI state TV said.

In Puglia, the ‘’heel’’ of the peninsula, authorities in the Baroque city of Lecce ordered as a precaution on Sunday the closing of parks and cemeteries for fear that storm-battered trees might crash onto visitors, the Italian news agency ANSA said.

France’s interior minister visited the affected area Sunday, as authorities worked to restore electricity to thousands of homes.

French national weather service Meteo France said the area absorbed the equivalent of two months of average rainfall in 24 hours.

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D’Emilio reported from Rome.

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