Orange alert along Atlantic coast

People warned to stay clear of coastal sites after woman swept away by wave at Biarritz

6 January 2014

RESIDENTS all along France’s Atlantic coast have been warned to stay clear of coastal paths and quaysides with high waves already having swept one woman to her death in Biarritz.

Méteo-France has put eight departments on orange alert for dangerous waves today and tomorrow, and the warning covers Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Landes, Gironde, Charente-Maritime, Vendée, Loire-Atlantique, Morbihan and Finistère.

A lesser yellow alert is also in place for Côtes d'Armor and Manche (on both sides of the Cotentin peninsula).

Storm-force winds circling an Atlantic depression are creating a large swell, driving high waves on to the coastline, with the peak expected this afternoon from 16.00 until 10.00 on Tuesday.

Brittany is expected again to face floods although tides are expected to be lower than over the past few days when Quimperlé in Finistère saw dozens of houses and businesses flooded out. So far strong rainfall has not allowed the river levels to fall.

Householders have been urged to contact their insurance companies immediately to report storm and flood damage and get the compensation process started.

Government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said an “état de catastrophe naturelle will be declared as soon as possible, adding that “the government will be supporting Brittany in facing up to these bad weather conditions”. See our previous article Natural disaster will be declared

Second-home owners should also contact neighbours and friends in the area to find out if they have been affected as there is a 10-day time limit for insurance claims once the “catastrophe” ruling has been published.

In Biarritz, a young woman was swept away by a wave late yesterday afternoon as a group watched the sea at the Phare de Biarritz. A 30-year-old man was also swept away but managed to scramble back ashore after grabbing a lifebelt thrown by a lifeguard at a nearby hotel. He was taken to hospital after inhaling water.

Police said a group of seven people had been on the rocks in front of the lighthouse when a wave swamped them. The lighthouse area had been closed to the public and waves of up to 4metres were hitting the shore.

Stormy weather swept across almost the whole of France at the start of the weekend, with Nice Airport being closed by violent rains and clouds which reached down to sea level cutting visibility to zero.

In all, 48 flights were cancelled and 10 others diverted to other airports. Around 600 passengers were lodged overnight in city hotels until flights could restart on Sunday morning.

The heavy rain caused rockslides on several roads in the south-east, with the road leading to Saint-Sauveur-sur-Tinée (Alpes-Maritimes) and the ski resorts of Isola 2000 and Auron being blocked for some time.
Screengrab of Biarritz wave: Sud-Ouest reader Wilfried

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