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France

Sarkozy visits flood-devastated Var region

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2010-06-21

French President Nicolas Sarokzy visits the south-eastern Var region Monday, almost a week after devastating flash floods killed 25 people and stranded thousands in the wine-growing area popular with tourists.

Almost a week after flash floods in south-eastern France killed 25 people, French President Nicolas Sarkozy is visiting the devastated Var region Monday.

Accompanied by French Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux and French Ecology Minister Jean-Louis Borloo, Sarkozy is set to attend a memorial ceremony for the victims of the disaster and visit businesses hit by the floods.

Last week’s heavy rains sent torrents of mud pouring through towns and villages in the Var region, inland from the Cote d'Azur.

More than 350 millimetres of rain fell on the Var last Tuesday, more than in a typical six-month period.

Some 1,400 people were rescued by helicopter and about 100 rescue missions were carried out by boat. More than 2,000 people have been taken to shelter since Tuesday. Several residents are still housed temporarily in schools and other buildings after their homes were swamped.

Tourism and wine industry brace for the worst

At an industrial zone in the town of Draguignan, fire-fighters have been working to help clear the floodwaters.

Nearly 50 businesses in this industrial zone have been affected by the flooding.

“It will take us a fortnight to get back to normal, more or less,” said businessman Patrick Blin. “But even then, we'll have work to do. You can see a lot of the workbenches and shelves have collapsed... it'll take a month, a month-and-a-half to fix all that."

Tourism is an important part of the economy in the Var region and the industry is bracing for the worst.

“We have to forget about 2010. It's over, I won't think about it any more,” said campsite owner Lucette Michel. “With a lot of courage, we'll be back to normal in 2011."

In this wine growing country, some vines have been completely ruined by the flooding.

Others may be salvageable, but risk a mildew attack.

And while the ground is still saturated, it's impossible for the farmers to treat their crop as farmers fear that year's harvest may be a write-off.

Few growers have expensive flood insurance to cover their losses.

The French government has already started distributing emergency funds. But farmers and business owners hope they'll be eligible for more long term state aid to help them get back on their feet.

Date created : 2010-06-21

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