Natural disaster to be declared after floods in south west France

The French prime minister says that a natural disaster will be declared after floods in the south west saw dozens evacuated from their homes.

Natural disaster to be declared after floods in south west France
All photos: AFP

The département of Lot-et-Garonne in south west France on Friday morning had 45 roads that were impassable, while six schools were closed and dozens of people were evacuated from their homes.

Visiting the area on Friday, Prime Minister Jean Castex said that the formal declaration of a catastrophe naturelle (natural disaster) would be put in place “after the briefest delay possible”.

After thanking the “quite exemplary” rescue forces and expressing the “solidarity of the State”, Castex announced that the file for declaring a state of natural disaster “will be examined, as always with great diligence, so that it can be declared as soon as possible”.

This declaration opens up emergency funding for local authorities and allows affected people to make swifter claims on their insurance.

READ ALSO What does a 'state of natural disaster' mean in France?

Large parts of France of been on high alert for floods all week, after days of torrential rain fell onto already saturated land, seeing rivers across the country burst their banks.

The Lot-et-Garonne département was put onto the highest alert and the River Garonne has overflowed in multiple areas, leaving some people having to be rescued from their homes by boat.


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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.