Interior Minister Declares the Aude and the Pyrénées-Orientales Natural Disaster Zone as Severe Weather Claims Lives and Damage
Bernard Cazeneuve – the French Minister of the Interior announced yesterday that the State would move to officially recognise the South-western departments of Aude and Pyrénées-Orientales a natural disaster area after one person died and thousands were displaced by catastrophic weather over the weekend in the region.
“I have asked that procedures be put into place for the recognition of a natural disaster zone,” the minister said after meeting displaced people who were temporarily sheltered in a public hall in Rivesaltes, just north of Perpignan.
The bizarre violent weather follows similar freak conditions in the Var department to the east. There, storms claimed the lives of four more people on Thursday and Friday last.
The declaration of a natural disaster zone means that the State will offer a guaranteed indemnity to damages caused by the violent weather and is subject to ministerial meetings this Monday and next.The south-west suffered its worse weather since just five years ago, when the area was also hit by violent storms in which 35 people were killed and one more missing presumed dead in the region.
The weather forced authorities to evacuate more than 3,500 people in the Pyrénées-Orientales and Aude. In Rivesaltes itself, one man died on Sunday trying to drive through a flooded dip in the road.
The town is one of a number of communes bordering the River Agly, where the prefect of the department Josiane Chevalier ordered the evacuation of people within a 200m distance of the river on both sides of the banks.
By yesterday evening, people were able to return to their homes but were asked to remain on alert for further possible flooding.
“The bulk of those evacuated in the Pyrénées-Orientales were able to return home,” said department sub-prefect Gilles Giuliani yesterday evening. “The waters are continuing to recede and we’re happy with the progress.”
About 300 people who had been evacuated in the neighbouring Aude department were also able to return home.
Meteorological conditions point to continued rainfall over the next few days but without causing any significant rise in water levels. The Var department was the worst hit, with four people confirmed dead and a small girl still missing.