South-west France hit by violent storms and floods

Eight departments in south-west France remained on alert on Monday morning after overnight storms caused flash flooding that closed roads and train lines in the region.

South-west France hit by violent storms and floods
Photo: AFP

Violent storms overnight left roads closed and train lines underwater, which meant travelling in the region was difficult to say the least.

On Monday morning the departments of Ariège, Aveyron, Haute-Garonne, Gers, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Hautes-Pyrénées, Tarn, and Tarn-et-Garonne remained on alert with more downpours forecast.

The Bouches-du-Rhône and Var departmens in the south east were also placed on alert on for storms later on Monday.

SNCF rail services had to be suspended between Toulouse and Tarbes after the station at Tournay was left underwater. Services between Toulouse and Narbonne were also cut after the rails were left submerged at Avignonet.

Bus services were laid on to replace the suspended rail services. The railway line between Castelnaudary and Villefranche de Lauragais was also cut due to flooding.


Drivers have been urged to take caution and avoid travelling if possible with several roads submerged or blocked due to flooding. Parts of the 163 and 164 motorways had to be closed due to rising water levels.

France's Basque country was particularly badly hit by the heavy rain and on Monday authorities decided to temporarily ban swimming on certain beaches.






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Scorching summer was France’s second hottest on record

Three heatwaves since June produced France's second-hottest summer since records began in 1900, the Météo France weather service said on Tuesday, warning that scorching temperatures will be increasingly common as the climate crisis intensifies.

Scorching summer was France's second hottest on record

With 33 days of extreme heat overall, average temperatures for June, July and August were 2.3C above normal for the period of 1991-2020.

It was surpassed only by the 2003 heatwave that caught much of France unprepared for prolonged scorching conditions, leading to nearly 15,000 heat-related deaths, mainly among the elderly.

Data is not yet available for heat-related deaths this summer, but it is likely to be significantly lower than 15,000 thanks to preventative measures taken by local and national authorities. 

Most experts attribute the rising temperatures to the climate crisis, with Météo France noting that over the past eight summers in France, six have been among the 10-hottest ever.

By 2050, “we expect that around half of summer seasons will be at comparable temperatures, if not higher,” even if greenhouse gas emissions are contained, the agency’s research director Samuel Morin said at a press conference.

The heat helped drive a series of wildfires across France this summer, in particular a huge blaze in the southwest that burned for more than a month and blackened 20,000 hectares. 

Unusually, wildfires also broke out even in the normally cooler north of the country, and in total an area five times the size of Paris burned over the summer. 

Adding to the misery was a record drought that required widespread limits on water use, with July the driest month since 1961 – many areas still have water restrictions in place.

MAP: Where in France are there water restrictions and what do they mean?

Forecasters have also warned that autumn storms around the Mediterranean – a regular event as air temperatures cool – will be unusually intense this year because of the very high summer temperatures. A storm that hit the island of Corsica in mid August claimed six lives. 

“The summer we’ve just been through is a powerful call to order,” Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said on Monday, laying out her priorities for an “ecological planning” programme to guide France’s efforts against climate change.