Severe storms and flooding hit south of France

Nine departments in the south of France remain on orange alert for rainstorms and floods, after severe flooding has already caused campsites to be evacuated, and posed serious danger to livestock.

23 October 2019
Heavy rain, storms and flooding have wreaked havoc in the south of France, including here in Béziers (Hérault)
By Connexion journalist

The departments of Aude, Aveyron, Gard, Hérault, Pyrénées-Orientales, Tarn, Bouches-du-Rhône, Var and Vaucluse are still on orange alert - the second-most severe level - for heavy rain and flooding, with the coastal departments at risk of high, flooding waves.

The tiny border country of Andorra is also on alert.

Forecaster Météo France described the weather as a “Mediterranean episode in progress”, which was moving from the Occitanie region, and was expected to be over Provence and the Côte d’Azur by the afternoon today (Wednesday October 23).

The alert is expected to be in place until midnight.

Interior minister Christophe Castaner called for residents to “take the greatest care, and respect guidelines” from local authorities.

Météo France warned: “The storms may be accompanied by violent phenomena such as very strong gusts of wind, hail, and strong electric storm activity.”

Severe flooding hits

Heavy rain has already caused flooding in the Aude, Hérault, Ardèche, and Pyrénées-Orientales departments, with two campsites requiring evacuation of all guests to a nearby gymnasium, roads cut off, and livestock washed away.

The worst of the weather hit in the early hours of this morning, with violent electric storms arriving overnight.

In the Pyrénées-Orientales, five departmental roads are inaccessible, especially in the commune of Saint-Cyprien, after rain of 100-200mm fell, and waves of three to five metres’ high threatened to engulf the coast.

Firefighters have been mobilised in the departments, with 246 and 340 on alert in the Aude and Pyrénées-Orientales respectively, alongside further teams from crisis response agency la Sécurité Civile.

Three helicopters are also on alert.

The warnings come just days after heavy rain in the Ardèche caused a flock of 150 sheep to be carried away by flash flood water.

More than 150 animals grazing on farmland near the Loire were washed away when the river broke its banks, with more than 100 sheep still reported missing.

The sheep were initially caught on an “island”, as floodwaters created two fast-flowing streams around them. Around a dozen were successfully rescued by firefighters before it became too dangerous to continue, leading to the remaining sheep being carried away by the current.

Stay informed:
Sign up to our free weekly e-newsletter
Subscribe to access all our online articles and receive our printed monthly newspaper The Connexion at your home. News analysis, features and practical help for English-speakers in France

Get news, views and information from France