SHARE
COPY LINK

WEATHER

LATEST: Devastating floods in south-western France leave at least 11 dead

At least 11 people died when violent rainstorms turned rivers into raging torrents in southwest France on Monday, prompting some of the deadliest flooding in years, officials said.

LATEST: Devastating floods in south-western France leave at least 11 dead
Firefighters walk in a flooded street during a rescue operation following heavy rains that saw rivers bursting banks on October 15, 2018 in Trebes, near Carcassone. Photo: AFP
The equivalent of three months rainfall was dumped overnight in the region of Carcassonne in just a few hours, sending rivers over their banks, including the Aude, which reached levels not seen in 100 years
 
Local authorities in the Aude department said 11 people were killed, a second reduction in the official toll which had earlier stood at 13, a figure given by the interior ministry. 
 
Two people were still missing with eight others seriously injured, authorities added.
 
President Emmanuel Macron, whose office said he will soon visit the affected areas, offered “the sympathy and solidarity of the entire nation for the victims of the Aude flooding and their families.”
 
 
The rescue operations appear to have delayed an expected announcement on a government reshuffle, triggered by the sudden resignation of interior minister Gerard Collomb nearly two weeks ago.
 
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, who is acting as interim interior minister, said the government would ask insurers to process disaster claims and payments “as quickly as possible” while he assessed the damage in the rrrrrrregion.
 
One of the overnight victims was an 88-year-old nun was swept to her death as rising waters smashed through a nunnery in the village of Villardonnel to the north of Carcassonne.
 
“The water crashed through the building's main door and on through the door to her room, the lowest in the convent,” said Sister Irene, the mother superior.
 
 
 
 
In Pictures: Deadly floods hit Carcassonne area of south-western France
Photo: AFP
   
Elsewhere, flash floods overturned cars, gutted streets and battered buildings and bridges, especially to the north of Carcassonne where authorities ordered bridges closed.
 
The Aude's levels were expected to peak late Monday evening. Evacuations were still being carried out in several towns in the afternoon, local authorities said.
 
“There's water everywhere in the house. Everything is flooded,” Helene Segura told AFP by telephone from the hard-hit village of Villegailhenc, where at least one small bridge had collapsed.
 
“Rescue teams were deployed as quickly as possible, but operations have proved to be complicated,” said interior ministry spokesman Frederic de 
Lanouvelle.
 
In the town of Trebes, near Carcassonne, the Aude rose eight metres (26 feet) in just five hours, officials said.
 

Hundreds evacuated

 
According to the latest toll figures from the regional authorities, a total of six people died in Trebes, which made headlines earlier this year after a jihadist attacker killed four people in a shooting spree, including a police officer who took the place of a hostage.
 
Two elderly residents died overnight in Villegailhenc, where the main bridge collapsed, and one person was killed in Villalier.
 
 
 
On Monday evening the body of another victim was found in Carcassonne making this one of the deadliest storms in France for a decade.
 
With many roads impassable, helicopters were used in the rescue operations.
 
Around 1,000 people were evacuated from the area of Pezens, also near Carcassonne, amid fears that a nearby dam could burst, and thousands of homes throughout the area were without electricity after strong winds brought down power lines.
 
The storms were triggered when a front of warm and humid air from the Mediterranean Sea slammed into colder air around the Massif Central mountain 
range, inundating an area from the eastern Pyrenees to Aveyron further north. 
 
This well-known weather pattern occurs three to six times a year in the region and nearly always triggers flash flooding.
 
But the French weather forecasting service, Meteo France, suggested these episodes had recently become more frequent and more severe.
 
 
 
 

Member comments

  1. I would argue that the Aude is not in “south west” France. Maybe more accurately “south central” France, or maybe even”south east” France.

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

CLIMATE CRISIS

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.

SHOW COMMENTS