Storm Alex: French village resident tells of devastation

Six-month wait expected to get access roads back into use for cut-off homes, resident tells The Connexion

6 October 2020
The bridge at the entrance to the village was carried away by the torrential floods
By Liv Rowland

The village’s main access bridge has collapsed as well as many houses, and food and water is coming in only by helicopter, a Tende resident told The Connexion  today.

With the only access roads to north and south cut off and further roads and bridges destroyed lower in the Roya Valley, locals have been told it could be six months before it is possible to leave by road or train, said Cathy Jooris, 67.

The only way out is a one-way evacuation by the army helicopters which are delivering their food, “going back and forward all day from Nice,” she said.

The village in the Alpes-Maritimes is one of those most affected by the torrential floods caused by Storm Alex in the Roya, Vésubie and Tinée valleys to the north of the Riviera in the night of Friday to Saturday.

Retiree Ms Jooris, who moved to the village several years ago from Nice, told how her water and electricity have been cut off since Friday night, meaning bottled water, cold food, candles and a torch, and no toilet flush.

 

Landline phones have also been off, and mobile coverage was only reestablished yesterday – however the only charging point is in a village café, which also has a television so they can watch the news, she said. They hope that electricity will be switched back on today or tomorrow.

“Luckily the café has its own power supply,” she said.

She said she realised the extent of the damage when she went outside on Saturday morning.

“When I went to the village to get water – because they were already starting to distribute water – everyone was talking about it. There are houses that have collapsed – a whole lot of people have lost their homes and a person has died.

“A lot of farm animals – cows and sheep – have also been killed near the village, I've heard.

“Many people have now been evacuated, including all the most elderly and vulnerable, carried by the helicopter. And all those that want to leave Tende. The first to be taken out were those whose homes were knocked down.

“The long-time residents here say they’ve never seen anything as bad as this.”

She added: “It could be six months if not more for the roads and rail, but we just don’t know how long. It’s not only Tende, but it’s the same in Breuil-sur-Roya and Saint-Dalmas-de-Tende and in Fontan everyone has been evacuated.

“Apparently the Fontan cemetery was destroyed and there were tombs lying around in the street.”

 Ms Jooris said the mairie has been distrubuting provisions brought from Nice.

“Today I had water, bread and tins of green beans and ratatouille.

“A friend has lent me a gas camping stove so if the electricity doesn’t come back tonight I can eat something hot, because I’ve had to eat cold food since Saturday – I’m missing my coffee the most.

“We’re coping. People are calm and everyone is asking if you’re OK. All the restaurants are offering free meals and the butcher is giving out free meat. So there’s an outpouring of solidarity.

“But many are leaving the village. My son sent a message saying ‘get evacuated and rehoused in Nice’, but I don’t want to. I like living here. We’ll just have to see how it goes.”

  • The mairie of Tende has set up a fundraiser to help buy essential products, help those in need and rebuild the village: Click here for information
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