13 people killed as flash flooding hits Aude, southwest France

At least 13 people have been killed in flash floods in the southwest of France, local officials say.

Several months' worth of rain fell in just a few hours overnight in the region of Aude, with one river rising by more than 20ft (6m).

It is believe to be the worst flooding in the area since 1891.

Interior Ministry spokesman Frederic de Lanouvelle said one other person is missing and five others are seriously hurt.

He said nine of the 13 dead were clustered in one town, Trebes, in the Aude region, and that the number of dead could increase.

The flash floods swamped a number of towns and villages around the fortress city of Carcassonne, leaving a trail of overturned cars, damaged roads and collapsed homes.

BFM TV said one victim, an elderly nun, was swept away by flood waters, and two people who had been reported missing were found dead.

Another person was killed when their house collapsed during the violent rainstorms.

"There's water everywhere in the house. Everything is flooded," said Helene Segura, 70, from Villegailhenc, where at least one small bridge had collapsed.

"When I look out the window, I can only see water and mud everywhere."

The prefect of Aude, Alain Thirion, told BFM TV: "We have people stranded on rooftops.

"We're going to have to use aircraft to evacuate them because we cannot reach them by boat given the force of the water.

"It's too dangerous."

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe headed to the scene where this morning, helicopters were forced to wait for clearer weather before they could launch rescue operations.

Around 600 firemen responded to more than 250 calls overnight, as six to seven inches (160-180mm) fell in five hours.

In the villages of Conques-sue-Orbiel and Veillardonnel, water rose as high as the first floor windows of some houses.

Around 1,000 people have been evacuated from Pezens.

Schools in the Aude area are closed and people have been told to stay at home.

Public transport, including railway lines, have been affected.

Torrential rains are not uncommon in France at this time of year but meteorologists have said warm sea water may be intensifying them in the wake of Tropical Storm Leslie, which passed over Portugal and Spain.