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15 April 2024

Flash floods kill at least 6 people in southwest France


Flash floods killed at least six people in southwest France, with roads swept away and streams become raging torrents as the equivalent of several months of rain fell overnight in the space of hours, authorities said Monday.

The regional government in the Aude region said that four deaths were clustered around the town of Villegailhenc, where a powerful, roiling surge of muddy water and debris ripped out a bridge.

The overall death toll of six was given by Prime Minister Edouard Philippe.

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.

She posted video of the ripped-up road where the bridge used to be, with the town now cut in half.
“There’s nothing left, there’s just a hole,” she told The Associated Press in a phone interview. “It was very violent.”

Other roads also were flooded, leaving the town cut off, said the 17-year-old whose school was closed.

Alain Thirion, the prefect of the Aude, said some of the dead appeared to have been swept away by floodwaters. In the town of Conques-sur-Orbiel, the river rose by more than six meters (20 feet), he said.
Floodwaters were in some cases too powerful for the emergency services to get through, even on boats, he said.

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

Schools were closed and authorities were urging people to stay home.