West coast braced for more flooding

Storms batter Biarritz last month

Storms continue to batter the Atlantic coast, with several departments on orange alert for dangerous weather

THE Atlantic coast was battered by 14m waves over the weekend - and residents are braced for more bad weather to come.

The Gironde, Landes and Pyrénées-Atlantiques departments remain on orange alert for flooding as the storms that first hit the French coast on Friday night continue. Other departments along the Atlantic west are on yellow alert.

This comes as new « natural disaster » decrees have been made for insurance purposes for Brittany and the Var.

Over the weekend, storms driven by a combination of high seasonal tides and a major depression to the north of the British Isles, smashed into the coast of 11 departments in the west.

On Saturday, waves of up to 14.2m were observed in Iroise, nearto Brest harbour. On Sunday high seas shattered the windows of a hotel in Biarritz, while in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, a thalassotherapy (sea water therapy) complex was evacuated as a precaution on Saturday night as waves ranged between 5.5m and 8.3m.

Along the coast, seawalls were overtopped in some towns, breaking shop windows and flooding streets. Despite the conditions, no injuries were reported.

Great swathes of France have been affected by extreme weather conditions this year.

In January, heavy rain caused severe flooding in the Var and Alpes Maritimes departments in the southeast, while the Landes and Pyrénées Atlantiques departments in the southwest were also affected as was Brittany.

A first batch of Breton communes was declared as having been subject to a natural disaster last month, and a declaration relating to dozens more was published in the «em »Journal Officiel yesterday – as listed here. Also yesterday a decree was published relating to 19 communes of the Var. February’s Connexion has information on insurance claims for damage of this kind.

Nice-Matin today reported that 286mm of rain fell in Nice in January, easily beating the previous record of 264mm from 1978. In south-west France, Dax recorded 301mm of rain last month, beating the 296mm high of 1986.

In contrast, only 22mm of rain fell in Perpignan - 66% less than the January average.

In Quimperlé, on the Brittany coast, shops and homes had to be evacuated after the Laïta River burst its banks last month, and a woman was swept to her death in Biarritz as storms lashed the Atlantic coast.

Also last month, tornadoes were spotted near Fessenheim, in southern Alsace, as well Nord-Pas-de-Calais and in Picardy.

France is not alone in experiencing devastating weather. Storms battered the whole of Europe this weekend. In Italy, hundreds were evacuated from Pisa. In Serbia, strong winds tore down power lines while snowdrifts blocked roads. The government sent soldiers and police troops to the streets to help evacuate people stranded in cars and buses.

Southwest England and south Wales suffered their fifth wettest January since records began in 1910. Some areas have also suffered prolonged flooding, with the torrential rain leaving villages on the Somerset Levels under water for more than a month.

Screengrab of Biarritz wave: Sud-Ouest reader Wilfried

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