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SEE: Damage in south-east after storms lash coastal areas and inland

Rivers burst banks as rains fall faster than storm Alex in 2020 when 11 people died

Multiple rivers burst their banks in the south-east after last night’s downpours Pic: Vasiq Eqbal / Shutterstock

Dramatic scenes were captured overnight and early this morning in the south-east of France after intense storms swept through the area. 

The Alpes-Maritimes department was on a red alert warning for rain and flooding between 04:00 and 10:00, with three separate downpours hitting the area. 

Storms caused thousands of homes to lose power in the area after winds of over 120 km/h hit during the night. Around 3,500 of these were in Saint-Martin-Vésubie, which also faced heavy flooding. 

Schools in the department were shut on Friday, and a number of places including parks, beaches, and Nice’s famous Promenade des Anglais were closed to the public to minimise the risk of accidents. 

Thousands of people were evacuated from their homes, particularly in the rural arrière-pays (hinterlands).

The area is a hotspot for autumnal storms – known as épisode cévenol or méditerranéen – which bring heavy rains in autumn and winter.

For people in the area, the memory of 2020’s storm Alex is fresh in their memory, particularly in Saint-Martin-Vésubie where over 500mm of rain fell during the storm which caused 11 deaths in France.

Below are some clips of the aftermath of the rain and floods in the area. 

Plans put in motion on Thursday

Preparations for the storm began yesterday evening (October 19), with sports halls and other public buildings converted into temporary shelters for the homeless and those who needed to be evacuated.

Schools were preemptively shut in the department on Thursday evening, to prevent a rush of drivers and travellers during the morning storms. 

Bus services were cancelled in the department, particularly in Nice, however the city’s tram service was still running in the morning. 

Around 700 firefighters were made available overnight to deal with emergencies across the department, including from other departments in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (Paca) region. 

Seafronts hit hard 

Coastal areas were hit by a combination of strong winds and heavy rains, especially during the second downpour of the night. 

Nice’s usually calm bay of Angels (baïe des Anges) saw choppy conditions on the seafront. 

This was the scene around 07:00 this morning: 

The beach was shut off to the public at around 08:00, as well as the Promenade des Anglais, the walkway running parallel to the beach. 

Other towns in the department including Cap d’Ail and Menton prohibited access to beaches and coastal promenades this morning. 

The Var river (confusingly found within the Alpes-Maritimes department and not in its namesake) was also running extremely swiftly this morning after the rainfall. 

Valley village hit hard

Undoubtedly the area hardest hit was the village of Saint-Martin-Vésubie, where thousands were evacuated overnight.

Over 3,000 homes lost power during the storms, and the village’s public halls were flooded with temporary evacuees. 

The main concern was the rainfall breaking the banks of the waterways running past the village: early indications were that more rain fell between midnight and 06:00 than the first 12 hours of 2020’s storm Alex. 

Over 50mm of rain fell in only a few hours, accompanied by winds of over 100 km/h.

By 08:00, authorities believed up to 150 mm of rain had hit the village, with torrents of water running through the streets.

River crossings were completely submerged.

Social housing buildings were still being evacuated this morning, over fears of the water levels continuing to rise.

The Mayor of Nice, Christian Estrosi, arrived at the village early this morning, to visit the area. 

In the video he posted below to his X (formerly Twitter account), you can see the river running rapidly behind him. 

The full extent of the ferocious water can be seen in the following two videos. The first shows the river bursting its banks and flooding a parking space with two buses, initially set to be used for evacuations.

The second shows the speed of the water cascading over previously dry areas, after breaking its banks. 

The most recent video taken in the valley shows the river continuing to run downstream. 

Read also

SEE: dramatic scenes of rising river water after heavy rain in France

Weather warnings persist in France as storms hit south-east

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