French Riviera severely flooded: shifts in funding required

At least 19 people have been found dead following flash floods on the French Riviera on October 3th. Violent storms and heavy rain last Saturday evening sent torrents of water and mud through several towns. The area is estimated to have received more than 10% of its average yearly rainfall in two days alone. Rivers burst their banks, sending water coursing into nearby towns and cities. French President Francois Hollande has announced a state of “natural disaster” in the affected region. This was reported on the BBC website, where you can find more details, photos and videos.

As STAR-FLOOD partner CEPRI commented in a French newspaper, the south of France was hit severely. The impacts on the inhabitants and on the urban infrastructures with a preliminary assessment of several hundred millions of damage can be considered as massive. It is one of the most important floods in the three last decades.  Yet, this is not the first time that the Mediterranean coast was struck by severe flash floods. In the five previous years, more than ten floods occurred in different French cities in this region: Montpellier, Frejus, Draguignan, and more. The French powerful insurance system will save once again economic activities and jobs and will foster recovery. But nothing will save the people who died during the disaster.

Non adapted urbanisation is the main cause of these dramatic events. Another is the lack of public awareness of the high risk inhabitants are exposed to. In both fields actions can and have to be undertaken. The French national strategy is already putting emphasis on spatial planning and public awareness. Yet, funding at the national level is still focused on flood defence (90% of the “Barnier fund”). To overcome this gap, more resources should be dedicated to implementing measures that increase public awareness of floods and flood adapted spatial planning.