Deadly floodssweep Provence

2nd December 2003, Comments 0 comments

MARSEILLE, France, Dec 2 (AFP) - Heavy rain and flooding in southern France sparked a major weather alert Tuesday, forcing evacuations, the closure of two nuclear power plants and leaving at least one person dead, officials said.

MARSEILLE, France, Dec 2 (AFP) - Heavy rain and flooding in southern France sparked a major weather alert Tuesday, forcing evacuations, the closure of two nuclear power plants and leaving at least one person dead, officials said.

The prefect, or governor, of the hard-hit region around Marseille, the country's second-biggest city, declared emergency services to be on a "war footing".

They were preparing for "a long crisis," Christian Fremont told journalists.

The state weather service Meteo France issued a high-level warning that would run to at least Thursday because of the "particularly worrying" conditions brought by the incessant rain and high winds.

The state electricity company EDF said it had closed down two nuclear reactors in the Ardeche region north of Marseille because of the amount of clogging plant matter in the water that serves to cool the plants.

Many roads had also been cut, and rivers were swollen to the point of breaking over riverbanks.

In Marseille, firemen said they recovered the body of a 45-year-old man from a flooded underground tunnel in which four cars had been abandoned.In the east of the city, around 1,000 residents were evacuated as rising waters threatened their homes and pushed vehicles to one side. Firemen responded to more than 400 call-outs in all the city overnight, and reinforcements were sent in from nearby towns.

The state weather service said other areas, particularly in the southeast of France, were also at risk.

Near Lyon, a 53-year-old woman was reported missing after being swept away by a torrent on a bridge. Police said she had been trying to push her stalled car, while her son sat behind the wheel.

In the town of Charlieu, 70 people were roused from their homes and put up in the local gymnasium.

The driver of a four-wheel-drive carried away at a river crossing in the French Alps was rescued by helicopter after firemen managed to secure the vehicle.

Police urged parents in Marseille and Avignon to keep their children at home. People were discouraged from using their cars because of the number of roads underwater and the bumper-to-bumper traffic on routes into the bigger cities and towns.

Traffic was expected to be disrupted on local rail lines, and sporadic blackouts were also possible, officers said.

© AFP

                                                                Subject: French news

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