The flooding at the weekend which affected Faute-sur-Mer and L’Aiguille Sur Mer both on the estuary of the Lay is being blamed on an unusually high tide combined with increased rain and wind.
In both villages, with inhabitants of 3 500 people between them, there are 27 dead, mostly elderly residents.
The President of the Republic, Nicolas Sarkozy, went there on Monday morning to support the bereaved families. He has asked the government to set up an inspection team to report back exactly what has happened.
Unfortunately, there was a report from 2007 which highlighted this risk of flooding. It was signed by Pascal Company, of the “direction départementale de l’équipement de Vendée” (I’m not quite sure what that is but sounds like a government agency !). He said “The vulnerability of coastal Vendée to coastal flooding is in no doubt,”.
The expert considered necessary to establish a plan of prevention of flood risks “in the estuary of Lay, where the combination of two phenomena – the rise of the Lay and marine flooding – could have a major impact on the populated areas to the rear of a network of aging levees. “The failure of levees would cause major damage to property and people,” he insisted. That’s exactly what happened in the night from Saturday to Sunday this weekend.
However local officials dispute this and say that the dams did not break but were overwhelmed. “Our levees were regularly maintained and in good condition”, says Alain Barraud, Deputy Mayor of The Aiguille Sur Mer.
The prefecture had told us with certainty that the sea would rise at least of 1 meter. We must understand that we are the victims of a small tsunami, the sea is coming by the point of Arçay and it is rose much higher than expected. This is why people were not evacuated before the storm.
The new prefect of Vendée, Jean-Jacques Brot said it is now up to parliamentarians and councillors, to undertake work on many dams Vendee and help plan dykes.
The total length of these dikes, the oldest of which date back to Colbert and the more recent period between the wars is around 1000 kilometers in Vendee and Charente-Maritime.
The sea formerly went to Niort but brutally reasserted itself at the weekende. There have been measures to try and avoid building in the coastal areas but also recently the Administrative Court in Poitiers gave the right to the inhabitants of Port-en-Ré to oppose the raising of a dam because it would deprive them of the views of the sea. Perhaps now these residents will think again.
So these are perhaps issues to be aware of if you are camping in coastal areas of the Vendee.