Heavy storms cause deadly floods in south-western France


It was there that nine of the 13 deaths were reported, Interior Ministry spokesman Frederic de Lanouvelle said, and some who were stranded on the roofs of their homes had to be airlifted to safety by helicopters.

Alain Thirion, the prefect of Aude, said people were stranded on rooftops and would have to be evacuated by air because it was too risky by boat.

One woman was swept to her death in rising waters in the village of Villardonnel, and at least four people died overnight in Villegailhenc. We're going to have to use aircraft to evacuate them because we can not reach them by boat gave the force of the water.

In the town of Villegailhenc, resident Ines Siguet said floodwaters rose so quickly after the rains swept in from the Mediterranean that residents fled to rooftops.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe headed to the scene where this morning, helicopters were forced to wait for clearer weather before they could launch rescue operations.

"Floodwaters were in some cases too powerful for the emergency services to get through, even on boats", France 24 reports, citing Thirion. "It's too risky", he said.

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Flash floods tore through towns in southwest France, turning waterways into raging torrents that killed at least 10 people, authorities said Monday. Some 350 firefighters were involved in rescue operations, a number which will double as more are drafted in to deal with the aftermath.

The catastrophic flooding struck without warning.

The Vigicrues agency, which tracks water levels in France, said the flooding was nearing a peak last seen in 1891.

Several residents told local media that the situation sharply deteriorated around 3 a.m., forcing people to scramble to higher ground as they sought safety.

Torrential rains are not uncommon in France at this time of year, but meteorologists have said that exceptionally warm sea water along the Mediterranean coast of southern France may be intensifying the rains.

The year so far is France's hottest since 1900, according to the state meteorological service.