Flash Floods Kill at Least 13 People in Southwest France

Clay Curtis
October 15, 2018

Flash floods tore through towns in southwest France, turning streams into raging torrents that authorities said killed several people and seriously injured at least five others.

This photo provided by Stephane Jourdain, after a torrent of water ripped out the bridge in Villegailhenc, southern France, Monday Oct. 15, 2018.

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

Seven helicopters were scrambled to rescue people from the roofs of their homes, and rough weather was making operations hard, the prefect of Aude, Alain Thirion, said. "The village is more or less cut off from the outside world", said Jean-Jacques Garros, a resident of Villegailhenc, one of the hardest hit areas.

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".

This area is popular with tourists, as it is home to the medieval hilltop city of Carcassonne.

An excavator pulls a auto from a river in Villegailhenc, one of the many vehicles that were damaged in flash floods in southwest France overnight. A Villegailhenc resident described for French news channel BFMTV how little time there was to escape.

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"We're being kept informed of the situation hour by hour", he said. So, what do I do? "We took what we could and went to the attic".

The flooding, said to be seven metres deep in places, has reached levels not seen since 1891 in Aude, according to weather service Vigicrue. The official asked for anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

The prefect of Aude, Alain Thirion, told BFM TV: "We have people stranded on rooftops".

Mr Thiron said one river rose by more than 20 feet and that floodwaters were in some cases too powerful for the emergency services to get through.

Television images showed waters coursing through towns and villages, with cars stranded in the floods and piled up on top of each other like children's toys.

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

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