On December 2nd, 1959, shortly after 9PM, when lights glowed in living rooms and folks wrapped up dinner, a wall of water 40 meters high rushed down the narrow valley of Le Reyan at Malpasset and headed for the nearby city of Fréjus. It wiped out the hamlet of Malpasset, ripped roads and railroad tracks, destroyed everything in its seabound path. It killed at least 423 people.
The Malpasset dam had collapsed.
Built in the early 50's, the arched dam of Le Barrage de Malpasset was meant to supply a steady stream of water for irrigation in a region where summers are dry and rains capricious. Under the stress of a vicious downpour of rain that season, and due to fissures in the rock that supported its foundation, the dam failed.
Today, concrete slabs five meters high, three meters wide imprint the valley with a taste of disaster. Rusted iron cables poke out of the rocky debris, twisted in a convulsed mesh as if melt.
A walk around the dam remains and the beautiful hills that surround it serves as a memory of a disaster that deeply affected the region. Many families visit year-round on warm weekends.