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Schools and roads closed as flash floods hit south-west France

Several areas placed on red alert meaning people should not go out unless essential

Parts of south-west France have experienced road and rail disruption because of heavy rain and flooding today Pic: Météo France / Hometown Photography / Shutterstock

Parts of south-west France have been hit by electricity outages and road and rail disruption today (January 10) as heavy rain causes flash floods and high river levels in several departments. 

Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Landes, Hautes-Pyrénées, Haute-Garonne and Ariège are all under a red weather alert for heavy rain and/or flooding, while Gers and Tarn-et-Garonne have been placed on an orange warning for flooding.

At the time of the last Météo France update, a total of 50-80mm of rain was predicted on lower ground, 100-130mm in the Pyrenean foothills and 150-250mm in the mountains.

Read more: Red alert for rain and floods in south-west France: stay home if can

The risk of flooding is particularly high around the Gave d’Oloron river, which flows through Landes and the Pyrénées-Atlantiques.

Some flooding has already been reported in Ariège, especially on its routes départementales and the Nationale 20 towards Andorra. Access to the principality was blocked by snow earlier this morning, but reopened around 10:30.

No houses have yet been affected by flooding but fire and rescue crews have been called out to around 50 incidents in the department. 

Some schools had finished at 12:00 with buses taking the pupils home because of the floods, but parents can now go to collect their children if they have not yet been brought home. 

SNCF has warned that traffic is disrupted between Ax-les-Thermes (Ariège) and Latour-de-Carol (Pyrénées-Orientales) because of a mudslide.

In Landes, France Bleu reports that an evacuation was set to take place as a precautionary measure this afternoon in the commune of Peyrehorade, which was touched by flooding just one month ago.

The mayor of Peyrehorade’s neighbouring commune of Oeyregave, Serge Lasserre said that he was “preparing for the same scenario as last time,” when some of the village’s inhabitants were also evacuated. 

Flooding has been reported on the RD123, RD23, RD424 and RD399, which were all closed this morning. 

In Pyrénées-Atlantiques, 700 homes are without power in the Pays Basque, although the electricity supply should return to normal by the end of the day.

Earlier today, rail traffic was disrupted between Bayonne and Puyoo and Pau and Bedous. For further information passengers should consult the Assistant SNCF app.

Pyrénées-Atlantiques’ subprefect has called for prudence amid this “exceptional” weather event. 

“The main safety advice is to limit one’s movements, to stay at home, to go upstairs if you live near a body of water and to take damageable possessions with you,” he said. 

School transports in the Aspe, Ossau and Tardets Valleys were suspended today, and parents encouraged to keep their children at home.

People in areas affected by a red alert are advised by Météo France to stay at home if they can, and to move their possessions upstairs if they live by a body of water. 

The red alert for heavy rain is expected to be downgraded to orange around 18:00 this evening. The orange warning will then last until midnight.

Red flood alerts will, meanwhile, continue into the early hours of tomorrow morning (January 11).

Aisne in northern France is also under an orange weather alert for high river levels, while Pyrénées-Orientales and Andorra are under an orange warning for avalanches. 

Some 42 other French departments are on yellow alerts for snow, flooding and avalanches. You can find out more on Météo France’s website or on government information service Vigicrues.

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