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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 November 2018

Deadly flash floods in south-west France - in pictures

At least 13 killed as violent rainstorms turn rivers into raging torrents

At least 13 people have been killed in flash flooding in south-west France.

The equivalent of three months of rainfall was dumped overnight in the Aude region in just a few hours, swelling rivers and flooding fields and towns, officials said on Monday.

President Emmanuel Macron's office said he would visit the affected areas "as soon as possible," while Prime Minister Edouard Philippe was heading to the Aude region later on Monday.

The rescue operations also appear to have postponed an expected announcement on a government reshuffle, prompted by the sudden resignation of interior minister Gerard Collomb nearly two weeks ago. Mr Philippe is the acting interior minister.

One of the overnight victims was an 88-year-old nun who was swept from her room by floodwaters at the Burning Bush priory in the village of Villardonnel, north of Carcassonne.

"The water crashed through the building's main door and on through the door to her room, the lowest in the convent. It carried away her furniture which ended up on the veranda," said Sister Irene, the mother superior.

The nun's body was later found under trees outside the convent.

Elsewhere, flash floods overturned cars, ripped up streets and battered buildings and bridges, especially to the north of Carcassonne where authorities ordered the closure of bridges because of the rising Aude river.

Authorities rushed hundreds of firefighters and half a dozen helicopters to the region to help with rescue operations, particularly in the floodplain of the Aude river which was at its highest level in 100 years, according to the Vigicrues flood agency.

"There's water everywhere in the house. Everything is flooded," Helene Segura said by telephone from the hard-hit village of Villegailhenc, where at least one small bridge had collapsed.

"When I look out the window, I can only see water and mud everywhere. It's sad when you're 70 years old like me and you need to redo your house, change the furniture and all the upholstery," she said.

In the town of Trebes, near Carcassonne, the water in the Aude rose eight metres in just five hours, officials said.

In total nine residents died in the city. Two more died in Villegailhenc, and one in Villalier.

Around 1,000 people were evacuated in the area of Pezens, also near Carcassonne, amid fears that a nearby dam could burst.