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Environment

Storm Xynthia victims buried, millions of euros for oyster beds and farms

media La Faute-sur-mer under the flood waters Reuters

French Prime Minister François Fillon is to attend a mass in honour of the victims of Storm Xynthia on Thursday. The death toll from last weekend’s devastation in western France has risen to 53 with seven seriously injured, Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux announced Thursday morning.

The church service in honour of the dead takes place at Luçon Cathedral in the Vendée department, which, along with Charente-Maritime, bore the brunt of floods and storm damage last weekend. On Wednesday an 80-year-old woman and her 60-year-old daughter were buried in the devastated village of L’Aiguillon-sur-Mer and another body was found in nearby Faute-sur-Mer.

Although official sources refuse to make the victims’ identities public, obituaries in local papers show that many of the dead were pensioners, often couples.

With flood water subsiding, rescue workers are now clearing flooded cellars and removing wrecked cars and tree trunks. Generous donations of clothes are reported, but officials say that they now need cleaning and hygiene materials and unperishable foods.

Aid to ruined oyster beds and agriculture was announced on Wednesday.

Oyster producers, who are an important part of the local economy, will receive 20 million euros, Agriculture Minister Bruno Le Maire said, while farmers will receive five million euros in emergency funding. Over 52,000 hectares of farming land have been made unusable by saltwater floods, according to preliminary estimates.

Officials have been sent to the European Commission to ensure that the grants will be validated at European level and not “declared illegal in two or three years”, Le Maire said.

Storm Xynthia caused over one billion euros-worth of damage, insurance companies estimated on Wednesday. The figure is lower than the seven-billion-euro damage caused by storms in 1999 and the cost of Storm Klaus in 2009.

A massive programme of floodbank construction will start within two months, Ecology Minister Chantal Jouanno announced Wednesday. As debate rages over whether coastal areas were properly protected, the government has commissioned a report on the 1,350 kilometres of floodbanks along the coast. Each kilometre costs one million euros to restore. Over 800 towns and villages are below sea level, Jouanno said.

Storm Xynthia caused 63 deaths throughout Europe. As well as France, Germany, Spain, Belgium and Portugal were badly hit.
 

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