Floods LATEST: Residents in Southwest France urged to stay home as waters rise

Two départements in south west France are on red alert for floods, as prolonged rainfall in the region takes its toll.

Partially submerged cars on a road running along the banks of the River Nive in Bayonne.
Partially submerged cars on a road running along the banks of the River Nive in Bayonne. Photo: Gaizka Iroz / AFP

In its early afternoon weather update, national forecaster Météo-France upgraded weather warnings in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques and the Landes from orange to red alert – its highest level – with nine further départements remaining on orange alert for a range of weather events.

A new peak of the Nive in Bayonne – which broke its banks earlier in the day reached a record high of 6.26m today, breaking its previous highest level of 5.15m set during the floods of December 2018 – is expected at about 10pm, authorities have said, warning residents and visitors to avoid the town centre. It is feared the new highest peak level may be broken again later on Friday.

Elsewhere, the red flood risk in the Landes and Pyrénées-Atlantiques departments concerns a single watercourse: the Adour, upstream from Bayonne, in an area known as the Bec du Gave, according to floods watchdog Vigicrues.

Meanwhile, officials in Laruns were to decide this afternoon whether to evacuate some of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques’ village’s 2,200 inhabitants as flood waters continue to rise.

The prefecture of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques had earlier warned against travel in the département after heavy rains caused widespread flooding, after part of the A63 motorway near Bayonne was temporarily closed because of rising water. The road – a major artery between France and Spain – reopened shortly after 3pm.

Meanwhile, rail link is closed between Bayonne and Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port is closed following a landslide.

There will be little respite in the next few hours, département prefect Eric Spitz warned. He said that forecasts predicted another 140mm of rain are expected in Laruns and 80mm in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in the next few hours

He told BFMTV that ’50 people’ had to be evacuated from Petit Bayonne early on Friday morning, at the confluence of the Nive and the Adour, as well as a crèche, after the River Nive burst its banks.

Meanwhile an earlier landslide forced residents of a village near the border with Spain to flee their homes, after the equivalent of two to three weeks’ rain fell overnight in in the Basque Country.

By 4am on Friday, 122.8mm of rain was recorded in Laruns, 92.1mm in Iraty, 86.2mm in Larrau and 63.2mm in Cambo-les-Bains.

READ ALSO ‘Atmospheric river’ prompts flood and avalanche alerts in southwest France

Further east, municipal buildings responsible for the management of urban rainwater are inaccessible in Tarbes, Hautes-Pyrénées. “We ask you to be extra vigilant today, especially near waterways,” the Tarbes-Lourdes-Pyrénnées agglomeration, warned.


A press release said that 18 primary schools in the département and two colleges – in Pontacq and Baïgorry – had been closed because of the bad weather, while a nursery and a retirement home near the river were evacuated.

The prefecture said that 148 firefighters and 62 police officers were dealing with a total of 230 call-outs, including 70 that were ongoing on Friday morning.

A crisis unit has been opened in the city and the prefecture has called on people to avoid travelling in the area. Access to the river Nive is prohibited.

The départemental prefecture also urged residents to observe “the greatest vigilance” and “avoid travel”. It also said that electronic devices should be unplugged and to avoid basements. 

“Damaging overflows” have also been reported on the Nivelle, the Saison, the Gaves d’Oloron and Pau, the Adour, and the Arros.

In addition, landslides in Biriatou, south of popular resort of Hendaye, along the Spanish border, forced about 20 residents to be evacuated.

Seven other départements in southwest and southeastern France remain on orange weather alerts: Ariège, Haute-Garonne, and Hautes-Pyrénées for heavy rainfall and floods;  Gers, and Hautes-Pyrénées for flooding; while the Ariège, Haute-Garonne, Isère, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Hautes-Pyrénées, Savoie, Haute-Savoie, Savoie and Haute-Savoie are also on avalanche watch.

The southeastern départements are also on alert for snow and ice.

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September temperature records broken in France amid new heatwave

Much of the foliage in France is already looking distinctly autumnal, but another heatwave is forecast for this week, with some areas reaching 39C and 40C.

September temperature records broken in France amid new heatwave

After a cooler few weeks with temperatures dropping significantly at night, France is predicted to return to summer heat this week, with Météo France predicting temperatures of up to 39C in the south west.

Fears that Hurricane Danielle would hit Europe have proved unfounded, with the storm dispersing and instead turning into a simple low-pressure system that will bring warm weather up from North Africa. 

The hot weather began on Sunday in the south west, where Biarritz reached 31.5C and the region saw temperatures of up to 39C on Monday. 

Elsewhere in France temperatures were predicted to be 24C-30C in northern and central France and 29C-34C along the Mediterranean coast.

By mid-afternoon on Monday, over a hundred communes located mostly in the southwest and central France broke heat records for the month of September. 

Pau, located in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques département recorded 37.4C, exceeding its previous record of 36.3C from 1970. Several communes saw temperatures of higher than 35C. 

In Landes, the Bégaar weather station recorded temperatures of higher than 40C in the afternoon.

The hot weather is predicted to last until the middle of the week, when it will cool slightly, and there may be storms on some areas.

Many areas in France remain on drought alert with water restrictions in place.

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