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Heavy Rains Batter Western France

Town centers in western France became into fast-flowing rivers Friday as heavy rains flooded large areas, cutting roads and damaging property.

A high-speed train heading from Rennes to Paris was derailed by a mudslide near Laval about 160 miles west of Paris. No one was hurt. The mudslide followed torrential overnight rain in the area which left many areas flooded.

Quimper, Quimplerle and Pont-Aven were among the hardest-hit towns. While some residents struggled to protect their homes and businesses with sandbags and wooden barricades, others were evacuated after nearby rivers overflowed their banks..

"Everyone is out helping all those in need," Bernard Poignard, the mayor of Quimper, told Europe-1 radio. "People are preparing themselves and are sadly used to this kind of thing because this is the third time Quimper has been flooded," he added.

Meteorologists expect the rain could continue into Saturday.

President Jacques Chirac expressed his sympathy to the Bretons, recalling that the region had been hit in the past year by a double whammy of fierce storms and a huge oil spill after a tanker split in two and sank off the picturesque coast.

"At the beginning of this year, Brittany is again cruelly tested by the heavy rain ... Again lives are upset, activities ruined, belongings seriously damaged," the president said in a statement.

Chirac assured the Bretons that national solidarity would help them to overcome these new trials.

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