PARIS (AP) – Emergency workers rescued or evacuated hundreds of people in southern France when flash floods turned roads and fields into rivers and lakes.
So far no casualties have been reported, although the region could see more heavy downpours on Wednesday. The authorities noted that the rains caused significant damage to homes and infrastructure in towns and villages between Nimes and Montpellier.
A man believed to have been washed away by the river Rhony appeared safely after taking refuge in the area, the local government of the Gard region tweeted on Wednesday.
One person was struck by lightning but survived, and the roof of a supermarket collapsed from the weight of the water, the regional emergency service explained.
People evicted from a campsite told BFM television that they saw the waters rush to their tents. Some 800 firefighters participated in the rescue work with helicopters and other means.
Schools in the region, as well as a major highway and several highways, were closed on Wednesday. Cleaning work began in some areas.
The floods follow a season of extreme weather with devastating fires near the French Riviera and in Mediterranean countries, historic floods in Germany and Belgium, and droughts and heat waves in other parts of the world. Scientists say these phenomena are common, but will occur more frequently now that the planet’s temperature is rising due to climate change.
The government will declare the floods a natural catastrophe to free up government assistance and payments, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said Wednesday. He promised help for residents in the region and others who had suffered damage “to heal the wounds of this flood.”