Heavy weather in France leaves tens of thousands of homes without power

A firefighter walks in a flooded neighborhood following heavy rains in Peyrehorade, southwestern France, on Saturday. About 70,000 houses were cut from electricity on Friday in southwestern France after heavy rains and violent winds. One person died and five others were injured as the floods threaten the Pyrenees-Atlantiques region. — AFP

PEYREHORADE, France — Much of southwestern France was on weather alert Saturday and tens of thousands of homes were without power following gale-force winds and flooding that left one person dead, another missing and five injured.

As many as 40,000 homes were without power early afternoon and some 25,000 remained so from Normandy down to the southwest by early evening, electricity utility operator Enedis told AFP.

A company spokesperson added some 2,000 tehcnicians had been deployed to restore power to those customers, urging people to call a dedicated hotline if they saw power lines had come down.

Overnight, some 400,000 homes had suffered power outages.

The department of Pyrenees-Atlantique in the Basque Country was downgraded by the weather service Meteo France however from the maximum level red alert to orange.

Eleven departments remained on orange alert Saturday evening.

A 70-year-old man died there Friday when his vehicle struck a tree that had fallen into the road during the storms.

Five others were injured, two seriously, when trees fell on their vehicles.

In Espeins in the Lot-et-Garonne region a man in his seventies was swept away by rising waters when he went out to fetch his mail and has been missing since.

Rescuers resumed searches Saturday as floods inundated parts of the region with waters rising to up to nearly nine feet and by 30 centimeters per hour in some areas.

Lot-et-Garonne was placed under red alert for floods.

A rugby rematch between Cardiff Blues and Pau for the European Challenge Cup in the city of Pau was initially canceled but finally went ahead, ending with a victory for the French side.

Flooding and landslides cut off access to the skiing stations of Gourette and Artouste, while the distribution of drinkable water in the commune of Laruns was interrupted.

In the nearby Landes department, about 600 people were evacuated on Friday as a preventive measure in areas where the Gaves de Pau and Oloron rivers converge.

"We are getting used to this now," a weary pensioner who gave his name as Christian told AFP.

"We put everything on the upper levels, and we clear out everything from the garage," he said.

But water levels were slowly falling in the area, local rescue force commander Olivier Loustau told AFP, and clean-up operations would probably start Sunday.

The Alps, where weather services had warned of heightened avalanche risk, were earlier downgraded from the orange alert level, as was upper Corsica where winds had been packing speeds of up to 150 km/h. — AFP