Page Devastating floods du site de la commune de Chamalières sur Loire en Haute-Loire 43

Devastating floods


The torrential autumn rains which fall over the upper Loire basin are part of the épisodes Cévenols (flash flooding in the Cevennes). These can lead to devastating floods which cause considerable damage and sometimes even loss of life.

A historic flood

The arches of the monastery complex appear to have withstood the terrible flood of 1481, which devastated houses and property.
The destruction was such that, throughout the Kingdom of France, King Louis XI had to subsidise the restoration efforts.
Chamalières and its priory did not escape the destruction. The water engulfed the buildings and destroyed the smallholdings, including official documents establishing tenants’ rights over their land.
However, the priory was on high enough ground to escape this natural phenomenon, even though it was a flood which had never been seen before in the history of the monastery.
With all its fury, the Loire was only able to sweep away a single bridge, one linking the priory and the Lord of Artias, used in particular for the celebratory dinner given by the monks each year.

Memorable floods

From the numerous floods which have been witnessed through the centuries, some have been particularly memorable, particularly those of 1559, 1651, 1795, 1866, 1878, 1907, 1951, and more recently, on the 21 September 1980.
At 5.20 in the afternoon a terrible noise was heard; this was the Chamalières-sur-Loire bridge crashing against the central pillars of the railway viaduct. The water was so high that it was like a dam had burst upstream. The flood devastated the houses and camp sites. Mud was everywhere, including inside the town hall, at that time located within the priory complex.
The flood carried off tree trunks, cars, caravans and all kinds of objects. The mill at Combres had to be evacuated by helicopter. This catastrophe led to 7 deaths being recorded in the department and more than 2 000 cases of damage. Afterwards, interiors of houses had to be cleaned and dried out – a difficult job which was carried out by a large number of volunteers in an atmosphere of true solidarity.
Today, there are warning systems in place to protect the population if there is a flood, but there is no guarantee that the garden and the church will not be flooded again.