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Special measures for storm victims

Homes and businesses in four departments have ten days to claim for flood damage and could get extra financial help

A RANGE of financial help for homes and businesses in the four departments worst-hit by Sunday's deadly storms and floods has been announced by the government.

President Nicolas Sarkozy signed a government decree last night officially recognising the Vendée, Deux-Sèvres, Charente-Maritime and Vienne as "natural disaster" zones.

Homeowners and businesses in these departments have ten days to declare flood damage to their insurer and five days for general storm damage. You will need to collect photos and receipts.

Elsewhere in France, the five-day limit applies. Insurance companies have been known to extend this in the past following freak weather conditions - we will update this story if an announcement is made to that effect.

Update March 2; 7pm: The deadline for all storm insurance claims has been extended to March 31. French insurance body FFSA says all claims up to €2,000 will be processed and paid within three months.

On a visit to the partly submerged communes of L'Aiguillon-sur-Mer and La-Faute-sur-Mer in the Vendée yesterday, Sarkozy announced €3m for families who need rehousing after their homes were destroyed by water.

The worst-hit homes will pay no taxe foncière or taxe d'habitation this year and can ask for the value of their property to be reassessed for residential tax purposes from 2011.

Budget Minister Eric Woerth has asked the local tax authorities in the four affected departments to be considerate towards families who file late income tax returns or cannot pay on time.

Small businesses in the area (with a turnover of less than €1m) are entitled to a €10,000 aid payout to help them repair their premises and compensate for loss of trade. Extra financial help is being made available to farm-owners and oyster farmers.

Insurance companies say it is too early to put a figure on the cost of the storm damage - which hit large parts of France, from the Pyrenees up through the Centre towards Alsace. A clearer idea will emerge as claims come in over the rest of the week.

The Charente-Maritime council has estimated the cost of infrastructure repairs and rebuilding sea defences in the department at €135m.

EDF is working to restore electricity supply to all homes today. Some 50,000 are still without power after the storms early on Sunday morning.

What effect has Storm Xynthia had on your home or business? Do you have any photos?Email

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