Monday, 21 January, 2019

At least 13 killed by flash floods in southwest France

The wreckage after flooding in Villegailhenc near Carcassone Image The wreckage after flooding in Villegailhenc near Carcassone
Melinda Barton | 15 October, 2018, 23:44

At least 13 people have been killed in southwestern France by some of the worst flash floods in a century, local authorities said on Monday.

Some residents had to be helicoptered from rooftops as the equivalent of several months of rain poured down in a few hours and turned waterways into raging torrents.

A firefighter helps a youngster reach safety in a flooded street during a rescue operation following heavy rains that saw rivers bursting their banks in Trebes, near Carcassone, in southern France.

"The water crashed through the building's main door and on through the door to her room, the lowest in the convent".

In Villegailhenc, witness Ines Siguet said the waters rose so quickly that people were stranded on the roofs of their homes and were helicoptered to safety.

Six people have died after flash flooding hit the Aude region of southern France, local officials said Monday.

Elsewhere, flash floods overturned cars, gutted streets and battered buildings and bridges, especially to the north of Carcassonne where authorities ordered bridges closed.

NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports that France's national weather agency, Meteo France, issued a red warning for the Aude River, predicting more flooding and urging people in the area to practice "absolute vigilance". The Aude region is best known for its Medieval fort city of Carcassonne. A Villegailhenc resident described for French news channel BFMTV how little time there was to escape. "It's sad when you're 70 years old like me and you need to redo your house, change the furniture and all the upholstery", she said. In the town of Conques-sur-Orbiel, the river rose by more than six meters (20 feet), and floodwaters were in some cases too powerful for emergency services to get through, even on boats, he said.

At least one victim was carried away by raging waters while sleeping, according to Alain Thirion, the prefect of Aude.

Television images showed waters coursing through towns and villages, with cars stranded in the floodwaters.

The French government rushed hundreds of rescue workers into the flood zone and helicopters buzzed overhead.

An anticipated reshuffling of government ministers would not be announced while the government was focused on the flooding, the official said.