A pharmaceutical plant on a 55 hectare platform out of which 15 hectares were used was flooded (ARIA 35427) with 20 cm to 1 m of water due to torrential rains (300 mm in a few days including over 100 mm in less than 24 hours – The French metrological department put the region on “red alert” (highest level of alert) due to the rains).
The site was on internal alert before the rise in the water level. The internal emergency plan was triggered. Thirty employees of the company evacuated or placed the equipment and products at heights at around 4.00 pm. Safety alert was sounded in the company (safety fold back phase: production stopped, planning of power cut sequence).
Leak detectors, especially gas indicators were not functional after the power supply was stopped. The company staff and voluntary fire-fighters patrolled the site. No pollution was observed except for 2 to 5 litres of hydrocarbon (Isopar G) and 200 g of powder in the laboratory that had spilled. On the other hand, significant damage on account of water was reported (building partitions, documentation, electronic equipment that was not placed at heights)
Additional resources were called in: trucks and power lift truck operating at great heights were used to move the products. Two high-speed pumps (850 m³/h) provided by the national civil safety department of the French Home ministry were used to rapidly evacuate the residual water.
The production facilities, cooling towers as well as electric equipment and rotating machines were re-commissioned with care and monitored.
A hydraulic study was commissioned by the metropolitan authorities of the industrial zone. The operator updated the internal emergency plan by including the flood situation and fine tuned his crisis management action plan (human and material resources).
The torrential downpour on the industrial area spread out over two towns was recognised as a natural disaster on 29 December 2008 (Official Gazette dated 31/12/2008).