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Last Updated: Monday, 8 December, 2003, 15:37 GMT
Pump operation for Arles floods
Military team evacuate an elderly woman in a canoe from a flooded Monplaisir suburb of Arles, on Sunday.
6,000 people have been evacuated in Arles since last week
Floodwaters have started to subside in south-eastern France, but evacuation operations continued in the city of Arles over the weekend.

The total number of flood evacuees in the country has now reached 6,000.

In other areas, German, Belgian and Italian rescue teams joined French firefighters to pump large amounts of water away from affected cities.

Bottled water has also been delivered to thousands of people to replace their contaminated drinking water supplies.

Rescue efforts over the weekend focused mainly on the area around Arles, which remained submerged in several million cubic meters of water.

The prefect of the Provence-Alpes-Cote-d'Azur region, Christian Fremont, predicted that 10 million cubic meters of water from the Rhone River was sloshing around the northern suburbs of the city.

Speaking to local France-Bleu Provence radio, he said it would take around a week to pump Arles dry.

Freezing temperatures

Most of the evacuees in Arles were taken in by their family and friends, and a few hundred were put up in emergency shelters.

Police are patrolling the streets to prevent robbery and looting.

Temperatures in France dropped sharply over the weekend, and the country's national weather service, Meteo France has warned of further drops and strong winds.

Five people died in the floods, which began last Monday night after torrential rain swelled the Rhone river.

In Avignon, correspondents describe scenes of chaos as waters begin to drop but roads and railways remain out of use. The roads which are open are gridlocked.

The people who were able to return to their homes began the grim task of assessing the flood damage, sifting through ruined belongings.

President Jacques Chirac has announced 12 million euros ($14.5 million) of immediate aid to the region.

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