Intense deluge forces evacuations in France (VIDEOS)
Several areas in southwest France have been flooded after receiving two to three weeks’ worth of rain overnight. The heavy precipitation caused rivers to swell and triggered landslides in some areas, forcing residents to flee.
The French meteorological agency, Meteo France, has issued red alert warnings in the Pyrenees-Atlantiques and Landes departments, describing the downpour as being “remarkable for its duration and the quantities expected [to fall].” Around 11 other departments are under orange alert.
The Pyrenees-Atlantiques departmental prefecture has cautioned residents to observe “the greatest vigilance” and “avoid travel” in the region, after rising water levels inundated sections of highways near the major city of Bayonne. A rail line connecting Bayonne and other parts of the region has also been closed after a landslide.
“Water is starting to invade the highway,” the region’s prefect Eric Spitz told BFMTV, adding that around 50 people had to be evacuated from the Petit Bayonne district at the confluence of the Adour and Nive rivers. Access to the Nive has been prohibited after the river reportedly breached its banks and rose to near-record water levels.
“Damaging overflows” were also reported on a number of other rivers, including the Nivelle, the Saison, the Gaves d’Oloron and Pau, the Adour, and the Arros. The prefecture noted that some 148 firefighters and 62 police officers were dealing with a total of 230 emergencies.
Several dramatic videos of overflowing rivers and flooded streets have been shared on social media. The water appears to have overcome the embankments and reached cars parked on the street. Other images showed fast-moving flood water tearing past houses.
Meanwhile, Spitz warned that there would be little respite over the next few hours, as weather forecasts predict more heavy rainfall to come. The prefecture released a press statement noting the creation of a crisis unit and the closure of some schools and colleges. A nursery and a retirement home near the Nive river were also evacuated.
Earlier in the day, landslides forced residents of a village near the border with Spain to flee their homes. Around 20 people were evacuated from the area.