15 die as floods hit France

AT LEAST 15 people died and thousands were driven from their homes in south-western France after torrential rain caused the worst floods and mudslides for half a century.

A mother and her three children died when their home was buried beneath an avalanche of mud in the village of Labastide-Rouairoux in Tarn. An entire family died when their car was swept off the road after a river burst its banks near Mouthoumet in the Aude department.

There were fears last night that the death toll could grow. Six people were reported missing in the Aude after their cars were carried away by flood-waters up to six foot deep. 10 potholers were trapped by rising water near Grimat in the Lot.

A huge breach in the banks of a sewage treatment works at Saint-Laurent- de-la Salanque in the Pyrenees threatened yesterday afternoon to inundate two villages in a mixture of floodwater and sewage. Over 2,000 people, already driven from their homes, had to be moved last night from the village hall where they had taken refuge. Three helicopters were hovering over the village, monitoring the progress of the floods.

River banks and dykes were reported to have collapsed - or be on the point of collapse - in several places in the four departments worst affected.

Many of the victims were trapped in their cars on Friday night as rivers and streams turned into raging torrents, after a day of incessant rain. Such was the ferocity of the floods that several fire-engines which turned out to try to rescue people trapped in their homes were also swept away.

Fifteen villages were still cut off last night. Six army and rescue service helicopters were touring the stricken areas, rescuing people from rooftops and marooned vehicles.

The walled town of Carcassonne in the Aude, one of the most popular tourist sites in France, was a scene of devastation last night after floodwater ripped up paving stones and left cars overturned. In some streets, cars were piled against one another like playing cards. Residents said that the lower part of the town had become a torrent of filthy water, instantly and without warning on Friday evening.

Close to Xavier Domenech's fruit and vegetable shop is a sign on the wall marking the peak of the great floods of 1940, over 15in up the wall. Mr Domenech said that at the height of the floods on Friday, the water had reached over 5ft - four times as high. Looking at the stock of his shop floating in the brown water, he said: "I have lost everything, except my life."

The Prime Minister, Lionel Jospin, who comes from south-western France, not far from the stricken areas, sent his "most sincere condolences" to the families of victims.

Dominique Voynet, the minister for the environment, said the scale of the flooding was abnormal and could not just be passed off as a "natural catastrophe". She said questions would have to be asked about the lack of warning and the possibility that modern agricultural and forestry practices had disturbed traditional patterns of drainage.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Full Stack Developer (.NET 4.0, ASP.NET, MVC, Ajax, WCF,SQL)

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Full Stack ...

AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - Investment Management

£450 - £600 per day: Harrington Starr: AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - I...

Business Analyst Solvency II SME (Pillar 1, 2 & 3) Insurance

£450 - £600 per day: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Solvency II SME (Pilla...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn