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Hundreds of campers rescued as flash floods hit southern France

10 August 2018

Rachel Buchanan, of Oxford, was one of thousands of holidaymakers who had headed for camp sites in Gard, Ardeche and Drome when heavy rain destroyed tents as the heatwave broke with a vengeance.

Hundreds of rescuers backed by helicopters moved out about 1,600 people, majority campers, in three regions of southern France where heavy rain caused flash flooding and transformed rivers and streams into torrents, the interior minister said Thursday.

The 75-year-old man was accompanying a group of about 100 German children who were evacuated from a campsite in Saint-Julien-de-Peyrolas, some 60 kilometres north of Avignon in the Gard region.

The level and speed of the river today was extraordinary.

"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".

Divers were reported to be taking part in the search for the man, although a top regional official said it was not known for certain whether the man was in his caravan at the time it was swept away.

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In the Gard region, where strong rains poured down all day on Thursday, rivers quickly overflowed their banks and 119 children were rescued from their campsite at Saint-Julien-de-Peyrolas, the French interior minister said in a statement.

The flooding comes after southern France - and much of Europe - experienced unusually hot weather.

Numerous roads in the affected area remained cut off as night fell.

Several parts of central and southeast France are on flood alert after weeks of blazing temperatures erupted in storms on Thursday, turning several campsites into mudbaths.

Meanwhile firefighters have been battling wildfires in Spain, Portugal and even within the Arctic circle in Sweden.

Hundreds of campers rescued as flash floods hit southern France