We underestimated storm risk: Valls

Compensation fund to be set up and 'natural disaster' decrees issued

Compensation fund to be set up and 'natural disaster' decrees issued to speed up insurance procedure for affected homes

FRENCH officials severely under-estimated the danger posed by storms that battered large parts of the country over Christmas, interior minister Manuel Valls has admitted.

On a visit to Brittany - the region worst affected by Storm Dirk - Valls recognised that an "error" had been made in forecasting and preparing for the bad weather.

Tens of thousands of homes were left without power over the festive period as fierce winds brought down by power lines and rivers flooded.

Valls has ordered préfets to assess the full extent of the damage in their department and try to ascertain why a higher level of warning was not issued.

He said decrees classifying the worst-affected areas as natural disaster zones would be published rapidly. These are important for homeowners claiming for damage on their insurance.

The state will also set up its own compensation fund for those who had to be rehoused. "The president is keen for everything to be done as quickly as possible," Valls said.

He urged Brittany residents to remain vigilant - as more rain is forecast for the region over the coming days.

Other regions of France were also affected by the ferocity of Storm Dirk. There has been substantial flooding in the Loire-Atlantique, power cuts in the Rhône-Alpes region and air travel in Nice was severely disrupted on Christmas Day.

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