Huge swathes of the south of France were placed on red alert yesterday as violent storms continue to cause major flooding across the region.

Helicopters were scrambled and hundreds of people were evacuated. Roads have been submerged and last night any movement was impossible between Nimes and Montpellier.

The warning has now been put to Orange – ‘Be very vigilant, dangerous weather patterns forecast. Watch the news and follow instructions issued by the authorities.’

Meteo France, the meteorological office, says this is the third time the Gard and the Herault have been put on Vigilance Rouge because of ‘dangerous weather patterns of exceptional intensity.’ The region suffered lethal storms in 1998, 2002 – when dozens died in the Gard – and in 2003 when at least 4 people died.

In Montpellier 15cm of water fell in two hours, and vineyards are flooded throughout the region.

‘Our vines are under 18cm of water – we have had a month’s worth of rain in two hours,’ a spokeswoman at Clos Centeilles in the Minervois told decanter.com.

She added that the harvest would certainly be set back a number of days because the mechanical harvesters could not get to the vines, but so far there was no serious damage to the vines. ‘The quality shouldn’t be affected, though we will pick later.’

Damage assessment is still be carried out by the Syndicat de Minervois, where localised hailstorms have hit some vines, it is not yet certain where.

In some cases floodwater has carried away between one and two rows of vines, Marie Vigneron at the Syndicat said.

‘The harvest has been set back by at least a week. It will take at least that amount of time for the ground to dry out. Even on foot it’s very difficult to get to the vines.’

The white harvest is well underway in the region, and some red grapes were being brought in in eastern areas.

A spokesman for Herault winemakers’ cooperative said the flooding did not pose a problem for the vines and that picking had been set back by one day.

Written by Adam Lechmere, and Oliver Styles