A couple from the Ribble Valley are counting their blessings after surviving flash floods in the South of France at the weekend.
Colin and Anne Darlington, of Bolton-by-Bowland, were enjoying an end-of-season 10-day holiday at their caravan on the Camp Du Pylone campsite in Antibes when floods descended upon the French Riviera on Saturday evening.
Now safe and sound at a local hotel, the pair are coming to terms with the disaster after being only 50 yards away from where a neighbouring holidaymaker drowned.
The woman, who has been confirmed to be among the 19 people killed in the floods, was on holiday with her husband, who is later believed to have suffered a heart attack.
Retirees Colin (67) and Anne (60), who are well known locally and have four grandchildren, helped three neighbours escape the six feet high water by pushing them to safety through their caravan’s sky light. “The events of the last couple of days have been pretty horrendous,” said Colin.
“The first thing we knew about the floods was when there was water lapping against our caravan door and we were confronted by three neighbours stood outside. At this point the water was rising about a foot every five minutes.
Anne thinks we were on the roof of the caravan for about four hours, and Jack, who must be in his 80s, was showing signs of hypothermiaColin Darlington
“One of the neighbours was a little old man called Jack who was with his wife, Jean, and had lost his hearing aid, while the other was an Irish lady called Ann. I bashed the skylight out of the roof of the caravan and Anne climbed up to help them all on to the roof.”
Colin subsequently stood on the kitchen worktop and peered through the sky light to keep his head above the water.
“Had the water risen any further I don’t know what I would’ve done, as there wasn’t room for me to climb through the skylight,” he added.
“It was all very frightening and a terrible experience, but at the end of the day it is over-shadowed by how fortunate we have been in comparison to the lady who died and her husband.
“Anne thinks we were on the roof of the caravan for about four hours, and Jack, who must be in his 80s, was showing signs of hypothermia.”
Thankfully, the water eventually started to recede, and when it reached knee level Colin and Anne waded through the water to Jack and Jean’s caravan to help them find clean and dry clothes. As Jack was on five different types of medication, they also made a couple of attempts to locate this.
“There were helicopters hovering above and winching people up. They were going to take Jack up, but as they came closer it started to whip up too much debris and blew all our candles out, so they decided against it.”
The party, along with others from the campsite, were later rescued and taken in fire engines to a rescue centre containing around 200 people where they were provided with sleeping bags and hot drinks.
Thankfully for Colin and Anne, when they realised the volume of water that was flooding into their caravan they had acted quickly and Anne had climbed up on to the roof of the caravan, pushing cases containing clothes, their passports and money up into the branches of a tree.
Assisted by locals they have also managed to get a room in a nearby hotel until they fly home.
“We went back to the site on Monday and it’s just utter devastation – full of debris and mud. It was total chaos when it all happened and the only way to stay safe was to remain with the caravan,” concluded Colin.