France flooding: Britons speak of ordeal

Britons affected by flooding in south-eastern France which has left at least 20 people dead have been speaking of their shock.

Paul Reeves said a "wall of rain" fell on his village of Bagnols en Foret, near the worst-hit town of Draguignan.

Vineyard owner Douglas Gibbon said he had not seen so much rain in the 30 years he had lived in Le Thoronet, about 14 miles to the south-west.

Paul Graham's family was evacuated from a campsite in Roquebrune Sur Argens.

They were staying in a caravan overlooking a river when rain began to fall at about 0900 BST on Tuesday and continued throughout the day.

"I stepped outside in the afternoon and could see the river rising. It had already reached the branch level of trees by the river.

"The Eurocamp leaders evacuated everyone in the evening at around 10pm.

"We had to move quickly with two children. The water was ankle deep. As we left, there were massive queues of cars and the police were also trying to redirect people.

"About half an hour, an hour after we left we had confirmation that the site was under water. We've pretty much lost everything apart from passports.

"It's the first time I have ever felt so out of control."

France's national weather service said up to 40cm (15.7in) of rain had fallen in the area since Tuesday and has continued to fall.

Mr Graham and his family were moved to another campsite at the top of a hill but they are now trying to make their way home.

'Falling boulders'

Elsewhere, rescue helicopters have been airlifting people to safety, some from the roofs of houses in the worst-hit areas. Meanwhile, 2,000 rescue workers are searching for survivors through debris and flooded houses.

London-born Mr Gibbon, who grew up in Forres, Morayshire, said he went into his village on Tuesday morning to discover a foot of water rushing down the road.

"The rain increased all afternoon. I've never, in 30 years of living here, seen so much water in such a short time.

"We lost our road. It was impossible to get down to the village.

Image caption Further rain is forecast for some of the flooded areas

"It's drying out now but we've got some pretty black clouds around at the moment so we're expecting rain later."

IT architect Mr Reeves, 40, said his village was about 30 minutes further down the valley from Draguignan.

"In eight years of living here we have never seen rain like it, it was a wall of rain for hours.

"The roads are littered with rocks, boulders, debris, cars in ditches and accidents across the region. Some roads are now impassable, other roads are down to one lane because of falling boulders."

Mr Reeves, originally from Thirsk, North Yorkshire, said the village where he lives with his wife and two children was at the top of a hill and so had avoided the worst of the effects.

"Our electricity has been cut off for 26 hours, which we thought was quite tough but when we see what's happening elsewhere, we're realising how lucky we are," he added.

Fellow villager Keith Turner, 46, said they had been on the edge of the storm.

"My cleaning lady arrived this morning to say the next villages across towards Draguignan had been trashed, with cars all over the place," he said.

"There was a huge storm on Wednesday night. It shook the building and rained like hell but we've actually had it worse here," added Mr Turner, who is originally from Peterborough.

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