French and Spanish Red Cross respond to deadly storm Xynthia

Published: 1 March 2010 0:00 CET

At least 60 people have been killed in several Western European countries after a storm dubbed Xynthia unleashed gale force winds and torrential rains on February 27 and 28. According to wire agency reports, at least 5 persons lost their lives in Germany. A 10 year-old boy was also killed in Portugal while two people died in Spain as well as one in Belgium.

France was by far the most affected country. The West coast was hit by winds up to 150 km/h killing at least 48 people. Charente-maritime and Vendée experienced very serious flooding and damages, At least 25 people died in Vendée after a sea wall collapsed in l’Aiguillon sur Mer, causing massive flooding. Search and rescue operations were still under way on Monday morning.

France hardest hit

French Red Cross volunteers were immediately mobilized to help local residents. The Vendée branch received the support of neighbouring teams from Loire-Atlantique, Maine-et-Loire and Sarthe. A temporary shelter was set up already in the evening of 28 Fedbruary in l’Aiguillon sur Mer, taking care of about 100 people. A psychosocial team was also dispatched to the shelter while another one was deployed at the place where bodies of those who died have been gathered.

Also, 25 volunteers were mobilized in the region while reinforcement was on its way to provide support to storm victims with activities that include the distribution of food, water, hygiene kits and clothes, Volunteers are also involved in cleaning operations, helping residents to take care of damages to their homes. Financial and psychosocial support is also provided.

At least 5 people died in Charente-maritime, also in the Western France. Many towns and villages are flooded. Traffic is heavily disrupted while 175,000 households are without power. The French Red Cross has been asked to help with search and rescue operations and set up emergency shelters., among other activities.

A Red Cross centre in the city of La Rochelle was also damaged by a 2.5 metre wave. 22 volunteers were called in to provide extra support. More activities will take place over the next few days in all affected areas.

In Spain

Spanish Red Cross also mobilized its network as soon as the alert for the storm was given by meteorological services. In preparation for “Xynthia”, the National Society placed all its territorial coordination centres on alert on Friday.

The Spanish Red Cross response focused on the province of Guipúzcoa (Pays Basque), where the storm had the most severe impact. The operation mobilized 16 ambulances, 15 transport vehicles as well as more than 130 volunteers, who participated in the clearing of streets and sidewalks blocked by fallen trees, as well as in providing health services, such as transporting the injured to hospital, in support of the firemen’s work putting out fires and pulling people from destroyed buildings.

(sources: French Red Cross – Spanish Red Cross)