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France

Mayor on trial for 2010 French flood death toll

La Faute-sur-mer, western France after Xynthia storm, 2010
La Faute-sur-mer, western France after Xynthia storm, 2010 REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

Local officials in a small town on the West coast of France go on trial on Monday, charged with negligence which led to the loss of 29 lives in severe floods in 2010.

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When the Xynthia storm burst seawalls in the town of La Faute-sur-mer in the Vendée region, on the night of February 28, many of those who were killed were still asleep.

Most lived in newly-built houses and were unaware that their homes were built in areas at high risk of flooding.

Victims want to know who allowed homes to be built in such dangerous areas and why no proper flood warnings were issued.

A special hall was hired in the town of Atlantes to accommodate the large number of victims and their families attending today’s hearing.

Since 2010 regulations covering construction in flood-prone areas have been considerably toughened and severe flood warnings are now issued in specific circumstances.

René Marratier, the mayor of the small town between 1989 and March 2014, as well as former deputy mayor Françoise Babin and her son Philippe, who is an estate agent, are all charged with manslaughter.

Meanwhile, one of the mayor’s advisors is on trial for failing to alert him to the fact that a dangerous storm was imminent.

The storm left the French state with a 400-million-euro bill, mostly incurred from the purchase and destruction of the remaining houses, including 522 at La Faute sur Mer.

Meanwhile the town is still not completely protected, according to Renaud Pinoit of the Avif victims association. He points out that only half the barriers have been rebuilt and that the dune wall gave way during storms last winter.
 

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