Rescuers evacuate 1600 campers after storm causes flash flooding in Southern France

Hundreds of rescuers backed by helicopters evacuated about 1,600 people, most of them campers, in three regions of southern France where heavy rain caused flash flooding and transformed rivers and streams into torrents, the interior minister said.

Hardest hit was the Gard region, where 119 children, many of them from Germany, were evacuated from their campsite at Saint-Julien-de-Peyrolas, Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said in a statement.

About 750 people in all were evacuated in Gard, mainly from campsites, a top district official, Thierry Dousset, told France's BFM-TV news channel.

Search teams that included divers combed swollen waters for a man reported missing. BFM-TV said he was a 70-year-old German citizen serving as a monitor at the Saint-Julien-de-Peyrolas site and feared to have been swept away by flood waters along with his van.

However, Dousset, the top aide of the Gard administration, said no one knew for certain yet that the man was in his van at the time.

Four German children were hospitalised for hypothermia in Bagnols-sur-Ceze, a town on the Ceze River, Dousset said. They were among 10 people hospitalised with minor injuries, the Gard Gendarmerie said on its Facebook page.

After a hot spell, the flash flooding in the northern part of the Gard region turned the Ceze and L'Ardeche rivers into churning waterways that quickly spilled out of their banks. Nearby regions — all part of the verdant and mountainous Cevennes — also saw flooding.

Collomb, the interior minister, said in a statement that 1,600 people were evacuated as a precaution in the Gard, the Ardeche and the Drome regions.

"No one has suitcases. We just have what we're wearing," Rita Mauersberger, a visitor from Germany who was among the campers taking shelter in a local hall in Saint-Julien-de-Peyrolas, told France Info radio.

More than 400 firefighters and gendarmes, many sent in from other regions, helped in the evacuations, using helicopters to spot camp sites and occasionally to perform rescues.

Numerous roads in the area remained cut off as night fell.

Authorities warned that the flooding would take time to recede and urged people to be vigilant.

A 70-year-old German man is still missing after the caravan he was in was swept away. Source: BBC

Airline mechanic who stole plane told air traffic controllers he was a 'broken guy' before crashing

An airline mechanic who stole a Horizon Air plane from a Seattle airport told air traffic controllers that he was a "broken guy" but also joked about whether the airline would hire him as a pilot if he landed safely.

The man, who was addressed as "Rich" in audio recordings with air traffic controllers, said he didn't want to land at a nearby military base.

He told them, "Those guys will rough me up if I try and land there."

During another part of the exchange, the man said he was concerned he was going to run low on fuel.

Later, he said he's "got a lot of people that care about me."

He said he didn't want to disappoint them but that he was "just a broken guy, got a dew screws loose, I guess".

Earlier, Sea-Tac International Airport officials said in a tweet that the airline employee "conducted an unauthorised takeoff without passengers."

Witnesses reported seeing the plane being chased by military aircraft before it crashed near Ketron Island. There were no passengers aboard.

The Pierce County Sheriff's Office said on Twitter that preliminary information suggested that a mechanic had stolen the aircraft.

The tweet said the crash may have been caused by the mechanic "doing stunts in air or lack of flying skills."

The US Coast Guard was sending a 45-foot vessel to the crash scene after witnesses reported seeing a large plume of smoke in the air, Petty Officer Ali Flockerzi said.

The man's name was not immediately released.

A spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration directed inquiries to local authorities.

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Retirement Commissioner calls for changes to KiwiSaver so man with Down syndrome can visit brother

The Retirement Commissioner is calling for changes to KiwiSaver rules so a man with Down Syndrome can access his money earlier than the age of 65.

Tim Fairhall, who has been working at Countdown for 14 years, wants to use his savings to travel overseas to see his brother while he is still in good health.

The 39-year-old recently starred in a video made by the Retirement Commissioner's office to champion his case for early access to his KiwiSaver funds.

Diane Maxwell, the Retirement Commissioner, says Mr Fairhall and his mother have been "to the Ombudsman, they've been through every avenue, [and] they've been back to the provider and they've still be told 'no'".

The money Mr Fairhall needs to travel with his mother is locked up in KiwiSaver until he turns 65, but Down syndrome means he is ageing faster than most.

Joan Fairhall, his mother and carer, says, "If Tim survives till he's 65, and it's quite likely he will, he'll be a really old man then - the equivalent of about 90".

Being diagnosed with a terminal illness, buying your first home or proving financial hardship are all accepted reasons for opting out of KiwiSaver, but a life-shortening condition such as Down Syndrome is currently not under consideration.

Mr Fairhall's family said the situation is unfair as he has worked hard, and his needs and those of others like him must be considered.

"He's probably going to have to retire somewhere around 42 or 45 if he's to have a bit of time to enjoy his retirement," Ms Fairhall said.

The Retirement Commissioner says some changes are needed, but the process is slow.

"Cases like Tim's, I suspect, represent a few thousand people who need something more and the risk is it falls into the 'too hard' basket," Ms Maxwell said.

Mr Fairhall and his mother have made a submission to a select committee looking at tax laws.

By the time Tim Fairhall reaches 65 to access his KiwiSaver, he’ll be “the equivalent of about 90”. Source: 1 NEWS