France pledges aid for flooded coastal areas
PARIS - Rescue workers in dinghies cruised flooded streets on France’s Atlantic coast yesterday, searching for people still trapped in their homes by storms that smashed through concrete sea walls and killed at least 62 people across Western Europe.
The storm, called Xynthia, blew into France early Sunday with hurricane-force winds, flooding ports, destroying homes, and leaving 1 million households without electricity.
It also battered Belgium, Portugal, Spain, and parts of Germany and snarled train and air travel throughout the continent.
President Nicolas Sarkozy toured the worst-hit areas yesterday, the coastal regions of Vendee and Charente-Maritime, and pledged $4 million in emergency aid.
Regional officials clamored for France to quickly reinforce its aging sea walls. About half the French death toll of 51 was attributed to the breach of the sea wall off the coastal town of L’Aiguillon-sur-Mer, known for its shellfish farms.
Aerial photos taken near L’Aiguillon-sur-Mer showed scores of houses in water that nearly reached their red-tiled roofs.
Floodwaters also submerged streets in L’Ile de Re, a chic resort island of colorful ports, charming cottages, and bike paths. Broken-off concrete blocks from a shattered sea wall lay strewn about one of the island’s beaches.