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Flood alert today on Atlantic coast

Towns take precautions as sea walls have already been weakened and damaged by February's Storm Xynthia

HOMEOWNERS living on the Atlantic coast have been urged to stay vigilant this morning as strong waves and high tides are expected - a month after the Xynthia storm.

Although Météo France has not issued a formal "orange" weather alert, local préfectures are taking precautions because many sea walls were damaged on the night of February 28.

Flooding is possible in low-lying land along the Vendée, Charente-Maritime, Gironde, Landes and Pyrénées-Atlantiques coastline as sea levels rise by up to 40cm at the shore.

A handful of homes have been evacuated as a safety measure. Three helicopters and about 60 Sécurité Civile officers are on stand-by in the Vendée. The town of Yves, south of La Rochelle, has opened up a municipal building with beds should it be needed.

The alert comes just over a month after 59 people died in Storm Xynthia, which broke sea defences in the Vendée and Charente-Maritime and flooded hundreds of properties.

One group of victims has announced it is planning to start legal action this week against the Vendée préfecture, which it accuses of putting town planning above people's safety.

Meanwhile, the European Court of Human Rights has rejected an appeal by two holiday homeowners in Brittany against plans by the préfecture to demolish their properties.

The local authorities in Arradon, in the Morbihan, have been trying to force out the two homeowners since 1992 under the Loi Littoral, which aims to protect the coastline from excessive development.

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