A British woman was among three people who have died in floods in southern France, where heavy rain caused rivers to burst their banks, it emerged on Friday.

The 68-year-old woman, who has not been named, was found by firefighters near her home in the village of Cazouls d’Hérault, in the Languedoc-Roussillon region. She was airlifted to a Montpellier hospital by helicopter but died a few hours later, according to an official.

Henry Sanchez, the mayor of Cazouls d’Hérault, had visited the woman and advised her to leave her home as the floodwaters were rising. “She could have gone upstairs as water was starting to come into the house,” said Mr Sanchez, who described her as physically “fragile”.

He called the fire brigade to rescue her, but by the time they arrived some 90 minutes later, she had left, apparently panicked by the rising floodwaters. “There was a torrent in front of her house near the River Boyne. She was found about 80 or 100 metres away. She couldn’t go any further because vines blocked the way.”

Mr Sanchez, 66, said she was well known in the village where she had lived for more than 20 years and many residents were shocked. “A lot of people here are very emotional.”

A resident clean her house up the aftermath of powerful storms in Villeneuve-les-BeziersCredit:
AFP

Paul, 69, a local resident, said: “We used to see her often in the village but she wasn’t close to many people.” 

The local authorities have opened an inquiry to determine the exact circumstances and cause of her death, a routine procedure in such cases.

Mr Sanchez has asked the government to declare a natural disaster in the village, which will make it eligible for state aid.

France's Interior ministry says three people have been killed in torrential rainsCredit:
@SDIS34

Initial reports said the floods had killed three people but local officials later said it was unclear if the other two deaths were directly caused by floodwaters.

About 700 homes were still without electricity in the southern areas of Hérault and Gard, and rail services are expected to be disrupted until November 4.

Flooding in northern Spain killed a man this week and five people were missing. Nearly 50 roads were closed and many flights were diverted.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We are supporting the family of a British woman who has died in Cazouls-d’Herault and our staff are in contact with the French authorities.”