Red alert in Aude, massive flash floods leave at least 6 dead, schools closed, France

Meteo France issued Red alert for rain and flooding for the department of Aude in southwestern France early Monday, October 15, 2018. The region received exceptional amounts of rain in just several hours, causing major flash flooding in which at least 6 people lost their lives. Up to 300 mm (11.8 inches) of rain fell in just 5 hours – that’s 4 months’ worth of October rain. The Aude river has already reached flood levels not seen in 100 years.

According to a special bulletin released by Météo-France Toulouse at 08:00 UTC (10:00 CET), exceptional rain accumulations, between 150 and 300 mm (6 and 12 inches) were recorded in the region of Carcassonne early October 15.

Trèbes (Aude) recorded 295 mm (11.6 inches), Labastide-Rouairoux (Tarn) 189 mm (7.44 inches), Puycelsi (Tarn) 89 mm (3.50 inches), and Lavaur (Tarn) 81 mm (3.18 inches).

On average, Carcassonne receives 74 mm (2.91 inches) of rain in October and 736 mm (28.9 inches) annually. 

The worst affected are municipalities of Villemoustaussou, Villegailhenc, Conques, Villardonnel, Floure and Trèbes, according to local media reports.

The Aude river has reached flood levels not seen in over 100 years, authorities said. At 04:00 CET, it was 3 m (9.84 feet) high and reached 5 m (16.40 feet) just after 10:00 CET.

Aude level at Trebes at 07:05 UTC was 7.58 m (24.8 feet), the second highest flood after that of October 1891 (7.95 m / 26.08 feet feet), according to French Observatory Keraunos.

“All schools, colleges and high schools in the department of Aude are closed,” Aude authorities said, advising its residents to avoid using their cars. 

Firefighters responded to more than 250 incidents overnight.

At least six people have been killed around Carcassonne. One of the victims was a woman swept away by flood waters in the town of Villardonnel, 5 others were found dead in Villegailhenc.

Six helicopters were scrambled to help rescue people from the roofs of their homes, but bad weather was making operations difficult, Reuters reports.

“We have people stranded on rooftops. We’re going to have to use aircraft to evacuate them because we cannot reach them by boat given the force of the water. It’s too dangerous,” the prefect of Aude, Alain Thirion, told BFM TV. 

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Thunderstorms are shifting to the Herault and rains will gradually end over the western Tarn in Aude, Meteo France said in the bulletin. They will persist longer over the eastern Tarn, Aveyron and Herault.

The agency expects the following rainfall amounts over the next 24 hours:

Southern Tarn and Aveyron: 50 to 100 mm (2 to 4 inches), locally 150 to 200 mm (6 to 8 inches).

Hérault can expect 100 to 140 mm (4 to 5.5 inches) and up to at 250 mm (10 inches).

Violent wind gusts are possible.

Red rain alert

Very large floods are possible even in areas rarely flooded. River/dike overflows may occur.

Traffic conditions can be extremely difficult on the entire road or rail network.

Power cuts longer or shorter may occur. 

If possible, stay at home or avoid any movement in the departments concerned. If you absolutely need to move, be very careful. Respect, in particular, the deviations put in place.

Do not engage in any case, on foot or by car, on a submerged lane. Signal your departure and your destination to your loved ones.

To protect your integrity and your close environment:

– In flood-prone areas, take all necessary precautions to safeguard your property against rising water levels, even in areas rarely affected by floods.

– Prepare emergency lights and make a reserve of drinking water.

– Facilitate the work of rescuers who offer evacuation and be attentive to their advice. Do not undertake any trip with a boat without taking all safety precautions.

Featured image credit: Magali Jimmy Arisi Langlet

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