Freak storm or freak planning?

I spoke to my father this morning who lives on the outskirts of Toulon in the Var to hear his take on the freak storms that happened a couple of days ago in the South of France. He was the last person to be able to use the D29 before they closed it. Twenty people have died and another dozen are still reported missing. The Nationale 7 is still closed. Trains are still unable to travel. There are still some 1,000 people in St Tropez with no electricity. I cannot believe I am talking about home.

My first thought when I read about this yesterday was how dreadful that this disaster happened not only in my country but so near to my home. I feel devastated for the people who have lost a member of their family. I know about these freak storms. Some twenty years ago, I was caught on the motorway in a similar one and just had to stop the car. I could not see any further than the middle of the bonnet of my car.

I asked my father if this one was worse than normal. It was a particularly vicious storm. Nevertheless, I have to wonder had this dreadful freak of nature happened only twenty five years ago, would the outcome been the same?

When I left the Var twenty years ago, there were still green spaces in between houses and buildings, we had supermarkets rather city like shopping affairs with warehouse type shops that sell everything and anything. Our flood plains have been filled by concrete and tarmac. Our towns have grown so much I cannot recognise them when I go back.

I am no scientist nor planner. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Having said that, where is water going to go when the proportion between concrete, tarmac and tiled gardens has outweighed fields and gardens? It stands to reason that motorways will become torrents. If water cannot go down into the ground, it will follow whatever it falls on to the next available bit of earth. In some of our towns, it’s a long way away.

I do hope other countries learn from that and that my compatriots’ lives have not been lost in vain.


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