250 flood-hit northern France communities in state of disaster
November 14, 2023 08:27 PM
Around 250 municipalities in northern France will be declared in a state of natural disaster due to massive flooding, President Emmanuel Macron said Tuesday as he visited affected areas fearing further rises in the water level.
Communities in the Pas-de-Calais and Nord departments have suffered days of heavy rain, rivers breaking their banks and floods, and the water may rise further in the coming days before some residents have even returned to their homes.
"Every municipality that has asked for it" would be declared in a state of disaster, Macron said -- a figure totalling 214 in the Pas-de-Calais department and around 30 in the Nord.
He added that the government would grant access to a 50-million-euro ($54 million) "support fund" for affected towns and villages.
The region has suffered in quick succession the effects of Storm Ciaran on November 2, record water levels in rivers on November 7 and heavy rain on Thursday and Friday.
On Tuesday, weather authority Meteo France placed Pas-de-Calais on orange alert -- the second-highest -- for heavy rains and flooding, while all seven of the department's rivers are at the same alert level.
Schools have been closed in 279 municipalities for the second day in a row.
"People are very worried, upset, they're on edge," said Jean-Christophe Castelain, deputy mayor of Blendecques, a small town just south of Calais where Macron is expected to visit later Tuesday.
"Around 50 people were still sleeping in our shelter space" overnight after 862 homes were affected by flooding, he added, with "no good news forecast for the coming days".
"It's good that Mr Macron is making the trip to come and see what's happening. But something has to be done," said local resident Corinne Baroux, who had volunteered to help the evacuees sheltering in a local gym.
Fabienne Berquier, president of the Red Cross in the Pas-de-Calais, said that the aid group was "setting up shelters again" around the nearby town of Saint-Omer.
The Nord department has meanwhile seen 10,000 cases of flood damage and 1,391 evacuations since November 6.
Food aid group Les Restos du Coeur has made an "urgent" appeal for food donations and volunteers to distribute clothing, blankets and other supplies.