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Revisited – Victims of Storm Alex in southeastern France still struggling to recover

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For various experts, Storm Alex, which ravaged south-eastern France in October 2020, was a “weather bomb”. In the area north of the city of Nice, torrential rain burst the banks of rivers. Entire houses were swept away in the current, sometimes with their owners inside. The 2,000 inhabitants of the village of Tende – perched high in the Roya valley – were cut off from the rest of the world, with no running water or electricity for several weeks. Supplies had to be brought in by helicopter. Since then, access has been restored. But not everyone has been able to return. More than a year later, Storm Alex has left catastrophic scars.

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Ten people in the Alpes-Maritimes department lost their lives to Storm Alex, with eight others still missing to this day. Among them is the village shepherd, Paul Giordano, who was swept away with his animals. The contents of around 150 graves in the cemetery were spread over dozens of kilometres. Some of the bodies were even found on Italian beaches.

Roads and bridges buckled under the pressure of the water. In some places, whole sections of the mountain have disappeared. Hundreds of buildings and roads were destroyed. Local authorities estimated the material damage at over €1.5 billion, with 13,000 people affected.

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In the early hours of the morning of October 3, residents of Tende helplessly witnessed the devastation. Since then, they have been trying to get their village back on its feet, but some homes need to be demolished before rebuilding can start. The storm has also left deeper and less visible wounds in its wake. More than 300 inhabitants have already left the village. Many will not return, too traumatised by the disaster. Others have chosen to fight to bring business and public services back to their devastated village.

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