Seven cavities were inspected along the Vésubie river -

F. Binacchi / ANP / 20 Minutes

  • The floods in the Alpes-Maritimes left seven dead and eleven people are still officially missing.

  • An operation organized by the national gendarmerie with speleologists went in search of bodies along the Vésubie river.

Helmet screwed on his head, frontal barely extinguished, José Serch is slowly recovering from his last helicopter.

This French Speleo Rescue (SSF) team leader returns from the Gourde cave, a cavity overlooking the Vésubie, between Utelle and Le Suquet.

Until then never transported by air at the end of a rope, this enthusiast of underground explorations, sometimes mobilized for evacuations, had not yet participated in a "search for bodies".

With one of his colleagues and three other specialists from the national gendarmerie, he took part, last week, in a special operation as part of the investigation carried out after the devastating floods of October 2.

"We are also looking for evidence, traces"

Eleven people are still missing.

“We are also looking for evidence, traces.

A piece of clothing, a trainer, ”he explains.

In the cave of the Gourde, in the end, nothing remarkable.

“We planted three bolts to go up 7 meters.

The cavity was full of wood, ”explains José Serch.

With the destruction of many roads, many of these spaces had to be visited with the support of a helicopter.

“The SSF allowed us to access databases where areas of relevance to our investigation are referenced.

In other words, seven air cavities that were drowned in the Vésubie during the flood phase, explained on the spot Major Florent Merlet, national referent in speleology for the national gendarmerie, came with two colleagues from Grenoble.

These include, in particular, old outlets for underground rivers.


One by one, these caves, more or less close to the stream which sometimes rose to more than 9 meters, were explored, sometimes with the apprehension of actually discovering something.

That was not the case.

“There is nothing to report on the areas surveyed.

We did not find anything, but that is already information for the continuation of the investigation, ”notes the soldier.

"We are closing doors little by little and there are not many left"

"We are still in the search phase for the eleven people still missing, with all the techniques that can be implemented", specifies Lieutenant Laurent Masson, forensic coordinator for the Alpes-Maritimes gendarmerie.

Our flood report

“It was not a last-ditch operation, but we are gradually closing doors.

And there is not much left, explains the manager.

Our divers investigated all the watercourses and retention areas.

But, we have a reasoning of multiple passages to take into account the evolution of the ground especially when there is new rains.

Debris can continue to move.


Tuesday, the human toll of the floods remained "unchanged", according to Xavier Bonhomme, the public prosecutor of Nice, requested by

20 Minutes


The bodies of seven people taken away were found and two other bodies have not been identified.


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