VIDEO: Amazing rescue as rock and mudslide crashes into French hamlet

Just the roof of a couple’s house was left exposed - but a police rescuer dropped down by helicopter, managed to force a hole through, and get the people out

The Ecrins National Park in Saint-Christophe-en-Oisans (left) has been devastated by mudslides (police video, right)
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French police have released a video showing the dramatic rescue of a couple as an officer is dropped down by helicopter and forces a hole in their roof to get them out after a rock and mudslide engulfs their hamlet in south-east France on Friday (June 21).

The roof was the only part of their home left exposed when La Bérarde (part of the wider Saint-Christophe-en-Oisans commune in Isère, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes) was split by raging flood water, mud and and stones - a lave torrentielle in French - when the Vénéon stream overflowed. 

The violent deluge of debris had started overnight Thursday to Friday.

The stream comes down to the hamlet from the Pelvoux mountain range in the Parc national des Écrins.

Around 100 residents in total had to be rescued by helicopter.

The video (top-left, below) is blurry towards the end, but still shows the extent of the damage. The rescuer can be seen dropping down onto the roof and making a hole to rescue the two people from inside. 

The house is almost completely buried in debris, save a small portion of the roof, through which the couple are being rescued.

The floodwater was so strong that it ripped through several houses, cut off roads, and required residents to be evacuated by emergency helicopter. Four helicopters took part in the operation.

The 100 or so people evacuated were given emergency accommodation nearby by the Saint-Christophe-en-Oisans mairie, said the Isère prefecture.

Mayor Jean-Louis Arthaud said that it is a “miracle” that no-one has been reported hurt or worse.

Access to the commune is still cut off, as roads are still impassable and closed.

‘Emergency fund’ and ‘catastrophe naturelle’

Given the scale of the devastation, the Ecology Minister Christophe Béchu announced a “damage assessment mission” on Saturday, June 22. The aim is to "very quickly release an emergency fund for local authorities" and enable work to begin "in the next few days", he said. 

"The first emergency was shelter, the second is now reconstruction," he said. 

The minister also said that an official state of catastrophe naturelle (natural disaster) would be recognised in "a fortnight", to enable people affected to unlock the relevant insurance clauses.

Read also: France’s ‘catastrophe naturelle’ insurance system: how to claim 
Read also: Advice if home in France is damaged in storm 

Severe storms

France has been hit with severe storms in the past few days, with one man reported dead in Lormont (Gironde) on June 19 after drowning in a car park as floodwater rose. 

You can keep up to date with the official weather warnings on the Météo France website.

At the time of writing, 13 departments in the south-east are still on yellow warning (second-lowest) for storms, including Isère.

The others are: Ain, Haute-Savoie, Savoie, Drôme, Hautes-Alpes, Vaucluse, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Alpes-Maritimes, Var, Bouches-du-Rhône. Haute-Corse and Corse-du-Sud are also on alert.

In addition, four departments in central-north (Loiret, Yonne, Cher, and Indre), and two in the east (Bas-Rhin, Haut-Rhin) are still on flood alert.

Read more: Weather in France June 24 - June 28: Forecast by area this week