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€500m to stop the next Xynthia flood

New coastal and river defences planned with reinforced dykes, better weather warnings and improved flood prevention

ONE year after the Xynthia storm lashed the west coast and killed 53 people, ecology secretary Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet has set up a new coastal defence plan costing €500 million over six years.

Put in place after Xynthia and the Var flooding which killed 25, the priority is to reinforce local flood measures, set up better flood warning systems and improving the maintenance of dykes.

Ms Kosciusko-Morizet said they also aimed to stop new building in danger areas and to strengthen flood prevention plans. She proposes:

• Revising risk prevention plans for 242 priority communes and tightening up 68 existing plans;
• Reinforcing dykes, up to 1,200km of reinforcement work;
• Météo France setting up a high tide alert plus a €10.4m scheme for new weather radar;
• Extending the 20,800km river alert scheme to include an extra 600km;
• 50 new jobs in the Directions régionales de l’environnement de l’aménagement et du logement.

Before Xynthia, few communes had a proper plan de prévention des risques d'inondations (PPRI) laying out the risks involved in building in sensitive areas. Now, new PPRIs are to be written for more than 200 densely populated areas at most risk of severe flooding.

With 1,000km of coastal dykes and 7,000 of river dykes, the first task is to trace the owners: the ministry has already found 3,000km with no apparent owner. Reinforcement work is planned on 1,200km at a cost of about €1m per kilometre.

Ms Kosciusko-Morizet said that they had to develop a new risk culture, as it had been shown that after about seven years people forgot about the danger.

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