ALMOST a year's worth of rain has fallen on the Hérault over the past four days with residents in Languedoc-Roussillon describing a "wall of water" falling from the sky.
The department got some respite this warning as storms eased off, allowing river water levels to drop by three metres, and freeing the village of Laroque from rising floodwater.
However, more rain and flooding is on the way and the Hérault, Aveyron and Lozère have been put on red storm alert by Météo France, which warns of exceptionally dangerous weather. Residents have also been warned of potential power cuts and advised to stay at home.
School transport has been cancelled in the east of the Hérault, around Montpellier, Sète, Agde and Pézenas, in the south of Lozère and throughout the Gard. Prefects warned other drivers only to start a journey with "extreme caution".
Residents were advised to check prefecture websites for up-to-date information on roads blocked by fallen trees, rail travel disruptions and the possible diversion of flights to storm-free airports.
Elsewhere, the Ardèche, Bouches-du-Rhône, Gard, Haute-Loire and Tarn have been put on orange alert as the storms sweep eastwards. In the Gard the prefecture has doubled the number of pompiers on duty with pompiers, gendarmes and rescue divers positioned at likely flooding zones.
Residents in the department spoke to RTL Radio of seeing trees being washed off hillsides by the storms, which they said was like a "wall of water".
France Télécom says it has 1,000 technicians in the area trying to avoid further telephone and internet cuts, which have already seen 4,000 homes cut off. Mobile phones are still working.
Ecology Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet said the storms were exceptional and warned people not to drive or walk through flooded sections of road or on roads beside watercourses.