Rescue crews aided by dogs searched Thursday through mud and debris for survivors from flash floods that swept through southeastern France, killing at least 33 people and leaving towns ravaged.
But there were only slim hopes that any of the more than 50 people missing were still alive, officials said."It's an indescribable tragedy," said Mayor Claude Haut of Vaison-La-Romaine, where at least 21 people died when the rain-swollen Ouveze River rose to 50 feet and engulfed the ancient town Tuesday.
As the toll mounted, ecologists and others threatened officials with lawsuits for allowing rapid construction of homes and camping sites in flood zones. Others said deforestation contributed to the flooding.
A videotape by a resident of Vaison-la-Romaine, shown Thursday on French television, gave France its first pictorial image of the disaster. It showed trees toppling, homes crumbling and camping vans swept like bobbing toys down the Ouveze, which was transformed into a churning torrent.
Rivers of water poured out of windows and doorways of homes lining the river of this Roman town, 25 miles north of Avignon.
Searchers Thursday concentrated on a camping site about 25 miles north of Avignon.