Record rainfall wreaks havoc in France

Heavy rains have caused widespread flooding in southern France, Montpellier was particularly badly hit. Over six hours on September 29 the city was pounded with 47 percent of its average annual rainfall.

The rain moved steadily up the coast from Spain, with Montpellier alone tallying almost 30 cm of rain.

Météo France, the national weather agency, issued a rare red alert for flooding and heavy rainfall in the wider region.

With some 4,000 people stranded, the government declared a natural catastrophe in the Hérault area, which includes Montpellier.

One man watched as his home was badly damaged.

“I’m 93 years old and I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said. “The water was flowing over. I saw a wall topple and at the same time everywhere filled with water. I had furniture… but you can see the state it’s now in.”

Government officials say 1,600 people spent the night in shelters set up by the Red Cross and the army. One woman was stranded when the river Lez burst its banks.

“It arrived almost out of nowhere,” she said. “Water started to seep in, so we started pushing the car. It was floating like a raft, so some people came to help us push it onto the bridge.”

But not everyone was able to seek refuge. The weather wreaked havoc on the local infrastructure. Five hundred people were stuck overnight in Montpellier Mediterranean Airport and hundreds spent the night in the railway station.

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