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Gendarmes bid to stop Var looters

Prime minister promises immediate aid for flood-hit residents and businesses

GENDARMES were on patrol overnight in areas hit by flooding in the Var after weekend storms caused chaos across a wide area of the department.

Foot patrols quartered the communes of La-Londe-les-Maures, Le Lavandou and Bormes-les-Mimosas as around 100 officers kept a watch for looters – with about 200 houses abandoned beside the estuary in La-Londe alone.

As the floodwaters were receding Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault visited some of the worst-hit zones and promised immediate financial aid and “an immense effort” to rebuild properties and businesses.

Mr Ayrault said that the announcement of a catastrophe naturelle to ease insurance claims would be made in the next few days but added that they needed to “look to the future and prepare the conditions for much faster compensation”.

“We have come to help, we’re there for that,” he told the mayor of La-Londe, which had seen whole districts under water.

After meeting mayors of the flooded communes he said that they would also be looking at clarifying building regulations to avoid building on land liable to flood.

La-Londe mayor François de Canson said he had been trying for six years to get a register of at-risk land so it could be avoided but admitted that building had happened and was becoming more common.

Today soldiers were bringing in a 50-tonne crane to try to disentangle the wreckage of around 40 boats destroyed by the floods in La Londe port.

Residents of the area said that the floodwaters on Sunday had “hit like a tsunami” The man told Var-Matin: “In quarter of an hour we had lost everything. The wave swept everything away.”

A helicopter crew from the Marine Nationale took this video of people being rescued at La-Londe which appeared on the Var-Matin website

In nearby Nice a spectacular rockfall saw hundreds of tons of rock collapse on to cars parked beside the city’s Sainte-Marie hospital. The Riviera capital had seen 222mm of rain fall in five days when the average for January was 73mm.

Most home insurance policies include cover for natural disasters but insurers only pay out once a catastrophe naturelle has been declared by ministerial decree. Anyone affected has 10 days to make an insurance claim from the date of the decree (see February's Connexion for more on this - on sale February 1).

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