Freeze hampers French floods clean-up
ARLES, France, Dec 7 (AFP) - Freezing weather and winds settled over much of France Sunday, hitting rescue and mop up efforts in the wake of devastating floods that killed seven people over the past week.
Although waters had receded in many of the southern and southeastern regions inundated since Monday, operations were continuing in the town of Arles, between Marseille and Montpellier, to evacuate residents, and rain-swelled rivers endangered towns in the centre of the country.
Firemen in Arles said 6,000 people had been told to leave their homes since Thursday. Most had been taken in by relatives or friends, though 345 were being put up in emergency shelters. Police and soldiers were conducting patrols to prevent looting.
The town was also the scene of the dramatic evacuation of a high-security jail on Friday. Masked and armed police used inflatable boats to ferry out 193 inmates from the inundated facility, many of whom were incarcerated for terrorist offences or major crimes.
Teams of firemen from Germany, Italy and Belgium were helping French officials pump water from the area.
The top regional official for the French Riviera and part of the nearby French Alps, Christian Fremont, said Sunday that he was going to organise meetings to review the safety of riverbanks and dykes.
He said an initial evaluation that EUR 30 million (USD 36 million) of work was needed to reinforce the infrastructure was “optimistic”.
Officials in the central region near the Loire Valley said dozens of people in homes close to the Loire river were briefly ordered out.
Bottled water was trucked in to several towns in the region to replace contaminated tap water.
France’s state weather service, Meteo France, warned that temperatures everywhere would drop sharply, and strong winds would buffet the centre and the south.
Most of France would for the coming week see below freezing temperatures, except on the Mediterranean coast, where the mercury would be a little higher but accompanied by more showers.
Subject: French news