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School pupils and workers urged to go home amid south France storms

Six departments are on red and orange storm and flooding alerts, with the situation expected to get worse between 15:00 and 18:00

People are being encouraged not to drive their cars if they can avoid it, especially not on flooded roads. Pic: Scherbinator / Shutterstock

Local authorities in widespread parts of south-east France are advising residents to leave workplaces and schools as stormy weather worsens.

Alpes-Maritimes, Var and Bouches-du-Rhône are all affected by the warnings today, as the storms and heavy rain affecting the areas grow more intense.

It comes as Bouches-du-Rhône is under a red flooding alert, while it and five other departments – Alpes Maritimes, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Vaucluse, Var and Haute-Corse – are on an orange warning for storms and high river levels.

These departments are predicted to experience very heavy rainfall until 21:00 tonight, with the storm expected to be at its most intense between 15:00 and 18:00. 

Around 40-60mm of rain is forecast to fall across the region, with 100-120mm expected in some areas, along with strong winds and hail. In Bouches-du-Rhône, the situation will be more extreme, with 200-240mm of rain falling in some places.

Since this morning, fire and rescue crews in Bouches-du-Rhône have attended 1,500 incidents, mostly regarding flooded cellars and roads. 

Rail travel is disrupted between Marseille and several other towns, including Avignon, Aix-en-Provence and Les Arcs, although TGV trains are not affected, and a number of roads in the Var have been cut off to traffic.

Alpes-Maritimes prefecture has closed schools for the afternoon as a precautionary measure, and residents are being encouraged to leave work early. 

Parents have already been asked to collect their children from school, although the buildings will stay open to shelter pupils who cannot get home.

Post offices in the area are also shut this afternoon. 

For further information, Alpes-Maritimes residents can call the public information line 09 70 80 90 40.  

The prefectures of Bouches-du-Rhône and Var have also asked parents to pick their children up, and school buses began taking students home at lunchtime. 

People living in areas affected by the storms are urged by the local authorities to remain vigilant and to stay at home until the rain grows lighter, keeping to upper floors if possible and avoiding basements, cellars, trees and bodies of water. 

Local residents are also encouraged to phone their loved ones and neighbours to check on them. 

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