• France's news in English

Second victim swept to death in French floods

Dan MacGuill · 19 Jun 2013, 18:00

Published: 19 Jun 2013 08:43 GMT+02:00
Updated: 19 Jun 2013 18:00 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

A 75-year-old man was swept to his death after the flood waters at Luz-Saint-Sauveur in the Pyrenees turned a local stream into a torrent.

That tragedy followed the death of a woman in her 70s who drowned overnight on Tuesday after becoming trapped in her car as it was swept away by severe flooding in the town of Pierrefitte-Nestalas, Haute-Pyrénées.

The victim and another man were swept away in a vehicle when the Gave de Pau river burst its banks.

She and her husband had been evacuated from their home but were heading back to collect personal effects when they were trapped by the water. Her husband was rescued by firefighters.

Emergency services were able to rescue the man, who had managed to escape from the car, but could not revive the elderly woman when they reached her.


Two departments at the foot of the Pyrénées mountains in south-western France – Hautes-Pyrénées and Pyrénées-Atlantiques –were placed on red alert for continued flooding until on Wednesday. Across the country as a whole 43 departments were placed on alert as fierce storms lashed regions including Paris and the north east.

Red alert is the highest available threat level available to Météo France, the national meteorological service, and entails “dangerous and exceptionally intense weather activity.” 

The shrine at Lourdes, where the Virgin Mary reportedly appeared to a peasant girl in 1858 and whose water many believe has curative powers, remained closed on Wednesday.

Tourists in the town were relocated from hotels bordering the Gave de Pau to an area on higher ground.

One hotel owner in the town told The Local the area was like a scene from a disaster movie.

"There's trees and debris strewn everywhere, the car park has been turned into a river and people are getting piggy backed out," said Damaris Stevens from the St Catherine hotel.

"I was up to my chest in water when I returned to the hotel. The water has come into the dining room, all the hotels are affected. We had only just reopened in April after the floods in October.

"There was a lot of panic when the waters were rising. We took the decision to move to the second floor. The fireman asked us to leave but I refused

"No one has escaped unscathed."

Minister's from the French government are expected to visit the scene later on Tuesday.

Story continues below…

The Catholic shrine was evacuated on Tuesday afternoon as the pilgrimage site was left under 1.4 metres of flood-water.

Hundreds of residents, pilgrims and tourists were housed in local hotels overnight, and 3,500 households were without electricity on Tuesday evening.

A spokesman for Lourdes sanctuary Mathias Terrier told The Local that the floods posed a greater threat to the shrine than those of October last year, which caused widespread damage.

"It's very serious, the water is still rising. There is nothing we can do. We just have to wait and cross our fingers and hope," he said.

This video, published on Tuesday, shows the Gave de Pau river bursting its banks as it rages through the town of Soulom, Hautes-Pyrénées.

Dan MacGuill (dan.macguill@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Fifteen of the most bizarre laws in France
Photo: Matthew Powell/Flickr

A must read for anyone who wants to stay on the right side of the law in France.

'New migrants arrive in Calais' despite 'Jungle' clearance
Photo: AFP

While thousands of migrants have been bussed out around France, new ones are arriving all the time.

Medieval town in south of France upholds ban on UFOs
The town of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Photo: Aa77zz/Flickr

Aliens take note.

American tourist dies at French Riviera sex club
The Riviera resort of Cannes. Photo: AFP

American tourist reportedly fell five floors after being pushed outside the underground sex club in Cannes.

Paris: 'Flying' water taxis to be tested on River Seine
Photo: SeaBubbles

An in Seine idea surely? But tests will go ahead.

France joins fight for rich pickings from post-Brexit UK
Photo: AFP/DcnH/Flickr

France tries to woo EU's bank regulator and other agencies.

How speaking French can really mess up your English
Photo: CollegeDegree360/Flickr

So you've mastered French, but now it's time to learn English all over again.

French claims that Jungle camp is empty are rubbished
Photo: AFP

Reports from the scene say scores of migrants are still in the area of the Jungle despite French authorities claiming "mission fulfilled."

Kidnapped Riviera millionaire left tied up in car boot in Nice
Photo: AFP

Head of luxury Cannes hotel has been found alive after being kidnapped in Nice on Monday.

Paris landlords still charging illegally high rents
Photo: Panoramas/Flickr

... and it's tenants in the smaller apartments that get hit the hardest. Could you be paying too much?

The annoying questions only a half French, half Brit can answer
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Forget Brangelina's chateau - here are nine others you've got to see
The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
How life for expats in France has changed over the years
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
jobs available