Four years after the spectacular images of flooding in Nîmes, France awoke dumbfounded by pictures of the Ouvèze unleashed on Vaison la Romaine (84) and its floodwaters submerging the town’s Roman bridge.
In just a few hours, the storm dumped 300 mm of rain on the Ouvèze’s upstream tributaries, such as the Toulourenc, which triggered a huge flood-wave that travelled along the river all the way to its confluence with the Rhône at Sorgues sur Ouvèze.
Many other villages such as Bédarrides were badly damaged and 38 deaths were recorded.
There was also a substantial flood of the Ardèche River on the same day.
Left: The Roman bridge seen from upstream on the day after the flood. The Ouvèze engulfed it but it held firm. A pinch-point between two rocky outcrops where the Roman bridge is built caused the river to rise
17 metres above its bed and created a huge maelstrom downstream.
Photo: SDIS* 84, source: Cyprès.
Right: The damage was worst just downstream of the Roman bridge.
Housing estates, campsites, shops and business units built on the Ouvèze floodplain, or even the streambed could not withstand the surging water.
Photo: SDIS* 84. Source: Cyprès.
Vaison la Romaine’s experience accelerated consideration given at the time to land-use in flood-prone areas.
This resulted in the “Barnier Acts” of 1995 (named after the Minister of the Environment) which among various measures introduced Risk Prevention Plans (PPRi). These land-use planning documents, appended to the Local Plan (LP) set building regulations based on flood risks from rivers breaching their banks.
The “A Cœur Joie” voluntary service centre, on the confluence* of the Lauzon and the Ouvèze was completely wrecked but thankfully with no loss of life.
The brown flood lines* on the walls show how high the water rose.