2 Mar 2010

Weak sea walls blamed for storm disaster in France

5:09 pm on 2 March 2010

Blame is being laid on weak and aged sea defences after violent storms left at least 50 dead and thousands homeless along France's Atlantic coast.

Many died after the sea wall off the coastal town of L'Aiguillon-sur-Mer was breached, allowing 8-metre-high waves to crash through the streets, the BBC reports.

A local governor said the walls dated back to the time of Napoleon and needed to be replaced with taller barriers.

President Nicolas Sarkozy has pledged 3 million euros in emergency aid.

Mr Sarkozy has toured the worst-affected western coastal regions of Vendee and Charente-Maritime after declaring a national disaster, and promised that recovery funds would be provided quickly.

The Atlantic storm, named Xynthia, smashed into the western coasts of France, Portugal and Spain on Sunday, with torrential rain driven by winds of up to 140km/h.

The storm has swept north-eastwards into Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. Deaths have been reported in Portugal, Spain, Belgium and Germany.