Thousands of homes at risk as flooding hits southwest France

Prime Minister Jean Castex has visited the Lot-et-Garonne, as alerts remain in Charente and Charente-Maritime, with thousands evacuated across the region

7 February 2021
Firefighters attend flooding scenes in Charente. Thousands of homes at risk as flooding hits southwest FranceFirefighters are on alert in much of the southeast as flooding hit the Lot-et-Garonne, Charente, and Charente-Maritime
By Hannah Thompson

Thousands of homes are threatened and thousands of residents have been evacuated, as severe flooding hits southwest France after Storm Justine, with water levels expected to rise until tomorrow.

Most of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region has been affected, and Prime Minister Jean Castex visited the department of Lot-et-Garonne, which has been particularly badly hit.

The prime minister thanked the emergency services, calling them “completely exemplary”, and said that his thoughts were with the residents who have been affected.

He also said that in some areas he would declare an official “natural catastrophe”, to enable owners to claim on insurance for the damage as soon as possible.

He added that he was also discussing ways to improve infrastructure and flood protection in the area to help avoid future flooding.

Around 190 people were evacuated from their homes as a precaution in the department of Charente-Maritime as the rivers Charente and Boutonne continue to rise.

Around 7,500 residents of Saint-Jean-d’Angély near Boutonne were evacuated as a precaution as 200 firefighters, gendarmerie and police officers were deployed in the area. Reinforcements came from Creuse, Corrèze, Vienne and Haute-Vienne.

The Agence France-Presse said: “The Charente [river] will rise by 30cm this weekend, and reach 6.3m on Monday. The weather should be more mild from Tuesday onwards, when the waters may start to go down.”

The peak is not expected in many areas until tomorrow, with water levels having already reached six metres in the town of Saintes at midday yesterday.

Roads are closed and more than 100 homes are without electricity.

The mayor of Saintes said: “These floods have risen quicker than [the historic flooding] of 1994.”

Yet, emergency services said that overall in the department and the town of Saintes, the situation is under control. The train station remains open, as do most commercial centres, bridges, and government offices.

In Charente almost 2,000 homes are directly at risk from flooding. Charente and Charente-Maritime remain on orange flood alert today.

Rain is continuing and a total of 159 residents have so far been evacuated. Some homes were cut off from electricity, gas, and water; packs of mineral water are being distributed to those who need them.

(Image: FranceInfo / @franceinfo / Twitter)

Around 142 firefighters are on alert in the department, with support from teams in Vendée, Dordogne, Creuse and Corrèze. They are helping residents to protect their homes and furniture, and secure the roads; and may continue to evacuate people if needed.

Yet, no major incidents or damage have been recorded.

The Garonne river peaked at 10 metres on February 4, but has now begun to drop, with levels back down to around five metres yesterday. The worst is expected to be over, although some of the department is still on a yellow flood alert.

There is still an orange alert in place in the Landes but waters have begun to recede.

Related stories

Garonne still on red flood alert but waters receding

Video: Floods in southwest France sweep boats away

Get news, views and information from France