PHOTOS: Floods hit west France, hundreds of homes evacuated

Charente river rises six metres above usual levels. Many departments remain on alert for river flooding

Dozens of streets in Saintes were completely flooded over the weekend. Photo for illustrative purposes only
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Several areas in west France were hit hard by flooding over the weekend as a major river burst its banks. More than 200 people were evacuated from their homes.

The Charente hit its ‘peak’ water level on Sunday (December 17) after days of steady rainfall.

Both the Charente and Charente-Maritime departments were hit by flooding, including Saintes, one of the area’s major towns where several streets were inundated.

Rainfall in the area has now stopped due to the cold, dry winds that are now covering much of France, however the Charente-Maritime department is still facing a tier-three orange alert over river flooding today (December 18).

A number of other departments, including Charente, are facing tier-two yellow alerts for river flooding. You can keep up to date with these using the official Météo France website.

Historic town centre hit hard

This is the second bout of flooding to happen to the area in a week after rivers in the Dordogne and neighbouring departments burst their banks at the end of last week.

Read more: PHOTOS: Floods across south-west France as rivers burst banks

The flooding of the Charente river hit one of the largest towns in the area, Saintes, flooding dozens of streets.

One of the bridges crossing the river in the centre was left completely inaccessible.

The images below show the situation both on the evening of December 17 (the first set of images) and the day before (the bottom set), showing the evolution of flooding in the town over the weekend.

This photo shows a private garden affected by the floods.

The caption reads: “For the 3rd time in 30 years, the garden is flooded.”

Emergency service workers set up wooden planks to help evacuate residents from homes:

The river reached levels of 6.09 metres above average, slightly lower than what was recorded in 2021 (6.19m), which was dubbed as a ‘thirty-year flood’ (one only supposed to happen every 30 years or more).

The highest the river has ever reached is 6.84 metres above average, in 1982.

The photos below show the impact when the river was 6m above average on Sunday evening.

The prefect of the Charente-Maritime department said the process of asking for a état de catastrophe naturelle (state of natural catastrophe) declaration in the area will begin “fairly quickly” to help those most affected.

Read more: France’s ‘catastrophe naturelle’ insurance system: how to claim

What will the situation be over Christmas?

No further rain is expected until at least Thursday (December 21), giving rivers some time to reduce their levels - however this will take time as much of the nearby land is saturated.

Many Christmas events taking place close in the area have been cancelled, and most of those evacuated will be unable to celebrate Christmas at home due to flood damage.

Weather experts fear that despite the dry conditions at the beginning of this week, a return of rain over this weekend could lead multiple areas already affected by flooding this month to face further issues.

Read more: Will the mild spell come back in France for Christmas?