In the railcar Marseille-Nice December 2, 1959 - full version
It is 21:50 in railcar No. 157 - a "panoramic" four-car red and cream - linking Marseille to Nice just left Puget sur Argens. It rushes at 110 km/h with approximately 70 passengers on board. It descends the ramp which, from Les Arcs, takes the track to Fréjus.
Not far from Frejus, a disc on the side of the railway track orders to the driver, Mr. Dumontet, to crawl along. At this point, the track is clear of debris and there is no water.
The convoy moves slowly when Dumontet sees a can and a tree trunk lying on the track. He stops immediatly, got out of the motor car followed by conductor Mr. Filippi, who also went down when the train stopped.
Both men advance on the track to see the situation with one's own eyes. Then the passengers seeing water coming from the left, scream alerting the two railway workers. They turn back, come back quickly on their feet and go back into the motor car.
Water comes like a tidal wave, gains quickly the cars and climbs in the latter. The engine compartment of the motor car is flooded by water. The lighting and heating, however, continue to function.
Travelers are mounted on the seats. Those who could not find a safe place hoisted up somehow and sit on backs. The bags remaining on the floor are soaked.
The water rises now to attack the bench. Under the car, it is like the sound of a mill. Travelers are still quiet: no panic, but the anguish is visible on every face.
The controller Toesca and the train Chief consult together in a low voice. The Dumazer's accent of Marseille, the other conductor and the Toesca's accent of Nice give the reply to the other. Toesca is thinking. He notes that water is coming from the left side. He runs to open the doors on the right side. The stream flows but slower than it enters, and the level continues to rise. Indeed, a thrust to the right is evident. The water tries to lift cars and throw them into the gardens turned into pool, on the right of the track.
Remembering that the motor car is heavier than other vans, and hence less easy to shake, then Toesca and Dumazer decide transshipment of passengers in the motor car.
Wading in water, they will pick up the hammer and first-aid ax painted in red, and under the anxious look of passengers climbed on their perches, they are shattering the windows. They tore the last fragments, they throw its into the water. The sleeves of their uniforms are stained with blood.
Travelers coming one after another, come together around the engines in the motor car. Young and old, men and women have to be helped to pass through the windows, to set foot on a stamp, then another and enter through the window opposite. All this done without losing time because the trailers pitch dangerously.
As there are small children soaked with mud, Filippi and Dumontet pull curtains out and give a rub to them. And then there is an old lady who has to be bear and also a disabled person.
Once all passengers evacuated, while Toesca is preparing to move from second to first trailer, there is suddenly a break of coupling and the last two cars are taken off. He sees that they drift slowly. they move away, slide down the roadbed, glide over the dark expanse, finally stopping in the middle of the flood, stuck in the mud.
Toesca then sees two passengers, Mr. Thenin a civilian and a soldier in the car tail, who had returned to pick up their luggages. They make big gestures wildly.
On the trailers side still on the track, a strange garland goes out of water: the rails are torn by the wave and twisted by it into a corkscrew.
A motorist who came by swimming, his car was hit by the flood, joins the motor car and annouces to shocked passengers the terrible news of the disaster they were still ignorants.
Finally, the water has been rising steadily for more than a 1/2 hours, then after the slow decline of water level, train chief Filippi and controller Dumont go forward in Frejus to give the 'warning, but they must turn back to the place where Reyran flows.
Then in the distance, echoes the plop of a troup marching in the mud: they are soldiers of the Colonial who come. A hum of engine goes with them. It's a bulldozer clearing the road ahead. An empty bus and an ambulance move slowy behind it.
Once there, a small group of soldiers tackled immediately to pick up two passengers from one of drifted trailers.
Mayor of Le Muy arrives to organize first aid and Toesca gives him a list of passengers. Dr. Negre from Jean-Louis hospital at Frejus, for who the first-aid box was unsealed, gives care to Mr. Thenin and its military rescuers, to Ms. Lieutaux, Filippi and Toesca; the doctor was himself wounded in the hand.
Others curtains are torn to dry and rub vigorously people fell into the water.
Once the path cleared by the bulldozer, Thenin the hardest hit, takes place in the ambulance. Then the railway workers organize the evacuation of passengers by giving priority to families with children, the crippled, elderly and women.
Passengers and their hand luggage take place in the military trucks, cars and bus.
Each passenger could recover his hand luggage on the train.
The railway workers stay into the train to handle luggages.
Toesca accompany passengers to the mayor of Le Muy, where hot drinks and snacks are served. Some people go by own way to St Raphael and the region, others remain in Le Muy.
Mayor of Le Muy ask to place the 51 passengers who have to travel to Cannes and Nice in a car of the Gathered Railcars Company of Draguignan. The departure is fixed at 5.20 am with passage in Cannes railway station at 7 am 45 and arrival at the Nice town station at 8.50 am.
Mayor of Le Muy asks Toesca to prevent passengers having to pay to the driver the price of the course ie 300 francs to Cannes and 540 francs to Nice. Toesca annotated on the S.N.C.F. titles of courses of travelers the amount of money paid and his number of clamp CR-R 26. Before the start from Le Muy, Mr. Magnan, S.N.C.F inspector of Toulon, asked him to record the names of injured persons or having misplaced hand luggages.