Holidaymakers forced to evacuate after flash floods sweep France

Rescuers at work on a flooded camp site  at Saint-Julien-de-Peyrolas  in southern France. Picture: Getty
Rescuers at work on a flooded camp site at Saint-Julien-de-Peyrolas in southern France. Picture: Getty
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A British holidaymaker has described a “raging river” near her campsite in southern France after flash flooding forced the evacuation of hundreds of people.

Heavy rain in the Gard, Ardeche and Drome areas, popular with British campers every summer, has destroyed tents and inundated streets.

Some 1,600 people, many of them children, were evacuated, and a 70-year-old German man helping to supervise youngsters at a summer camp in Saint-Julien-de-Peyrolas 
in the Gard region was feared to have been swept away 
by floodwater, along with his van.

Nearly 120 children were evacuated from the site as emergency teams helped around 750 people to safety across the Gard area.

Kathryn Alford, 44, from Welwyn Garden City in Hertfordshire, was at Huttopia Camping Le Moulin in Saint Martin d’Ardeche with her husband and two children.

She said severe storms started on Thursday with very heavy rain and constant thunder and lightning.

“I looked out at one point and realised that the water level seemed higher than just massive puddles. Our neighbour’s bottom step had disappeared and things were floating past,” she said, adding that they had lost electricity.

Between storms, Ms Alford took pictures of people in canoes in the flood outside the mobile home she was staying in.

“I was quite frightened at first as I hate storms. Some people were concerned, but the campsite were good at reassuring us.

“I felt really sorry for the people whose tents were flooded,” she said.

Ms Alford said the fire brigade came to the site to pump out water which came down suddenly from the hills.

“When things had calmed down around four-ish we went down to the village and were met by the sight of water pouring down streets from hills into a completely changed raging river,” she said, referring to the Ardeche river, which had been tranquil the previous day.

Rachel Buchanan, from Oxford, endured a “frightening” drive through floodwater that had hit another site in the Ardeche region.

“The level and speed of the river today was extraordinary - we woke up in about a foot of water,” she told the BBC.

“Driving in our camper van was very frightening as the road by the river was completely under water and waterfalls had appeared from nowhere, crashing down the gorge.”

The French weather service has issued orange and yellow alerts for parts of south-east France which remained in place until last night.

UK Met Office meteorologist Marco Petagna said 3in of rain fell over the area in 24 hours.