A vehicle and debris are pictured after floods in the town of Villegailhenc, southern France, Monday, Oct.15, 2018.
A motorist drives his auto on a flooded road near Saint-Tropez harbour in southern France, after severe rainstorms over the Var region led to floods on October 11, 2018.
This well-known weather pattern occurs 3 to 6 times a year in the region and almost always triggers flash flooding.
Flash floods killed 13 people in southwest France Monday morning, mostly in the town of Trebes, officials said.
An official says French President Emmanuel Macron is traveling to southwestern France "as soon as possible" to meet with people affected by the flash floods.
Roads were cut off and cars overturned after several months' worth of rain fell on the area overnight Sunday into Monday, causing rivers to flood.
The Interior Ministry initially put the number of deaths at 13 before revising the toll downwards to 12, though it could rise again. Two people were killed in the town, according to the Aude regional government. Three more fatalities were reported in the neighboring villages of Villalier and one in Villegailhenc.
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Thirion said that in Trebes, the town with the most deaths, the Aude River quickly swelled from about knee-height to a destructive flood that ended up being over 6.5 meters (21 feet) deep.
Some people had to be helicoptered to safety from the roofs of their homes as overnight storms dumped several months of rain in just a few hours.
"There's nothing left, there's just a hole", she told The Associated Press in a phone interview.
Residents have been urged to stay inside their homes by emergency services and local authorities, who have issued a red alert. "It was very violent".
"The water crashed through the building's main door and on through the door to her room, the lowest in the convent". A Villegailhenc resident described for French news channel BFMTV how little time there was to escape.
"When I look out the window, I can only see water and mud everywhere. Impossible. I am trying hard and then the water rose up to my belly", the resident, who was identified only as Jean-Marc, told the broadcaster. "I was terribly afraid". Floodwaters were in some cases too powerful for the emergency services to get through, even on boats, he said.