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Winter Floods Devastate Aquitanium Coastal Community

Les Marais – The community of Les Marais on Anse Island in Aquitanium are facing years of rebuilding after torrential rain last night raised sea levels drastically, overrunning the village with sea water. The floods, which hit around 2:30am last night, has ruined local homes, businesses, and farmlands. No lives have been lost, with all residents accounted for, but every single building in the small coastal town was hit with water that at its highest peak reportedly reached 6 feet, but has reduced now to 2 feet in most places.

Aquitanium Premier, Anne McBride of the DLP, has expressed her sadness at the tragedy, and has said that early estimates suggest the entire economy of the village of Les Marais has been wiped out with this one flood; not only has the local post office, most bars, and nearly all caf├ęs, restaurants, and small offices been devastated by the flood water, but most homes are now no longer fit to live in. Many people who live on Anse Island, and particularly in Les Marais, live in bungalows or what are called “dormers”, essentially one and a half story homes with a small mezzanine level where inhabitants might sleep. McBride also said that nearly all fishing boats docked at the village pier were damaged badly by the rising waters and that “no fisherman from this village can make a livelihood right now. There’s not one seaworthy boat left among them”.

Homeland Security Secretary Nicola Allman has said that the federal government would liaise with McBride’s state government to help the residents of the village, and crowdfunding measures have already been set up by victims’ families elsewhere in the state to help fund repairs, and new boat purchases in some instances. McBride has pledged the Aquitanium government would provide grants for home repairs, but has admitted that in many cases “it would be more economically viable for the residents to knock and rebuild their homes, I would say too much structural damage has been done”.

Local resident Simone Saint-Clair has said the town had been expecting this kind of tragedy for many years now, with tides rising higher than ever each winter. “We have been complaining to the government for the past ten years now, saying we need more flood defences along our beaches and low sea level adjacent land. Even after we had the state government set up, we thought maybe they would do something for us, because it’s more local, but no. Nothing. We are lucky no one died.”

Les Marais has 2,477 residents according to the last census. Most are farmers or fishermen, though there are other small businesses locally like property agents, travel bureaus, one-person law-firms etc. State civil engineers sent to evaluate the damage has said that electricity to the village will be out for at least a week, though that is their first priority along with safe drinking water. Internet is gone here too, and telecommunication towers located near the seafront were also badly damaged, though satellites mean the area isn’t totally without network coverage. About 1600 people are now temporarily, if not permanently, homeless, with some residents saying there’s no way they can rebuild in the same location now, especially if it’s going to be located in a floodplain going forward. Local residents who were lucky enough to be on higher ground, or just beyond the floods path, are giving spare rooms to neighbours, and everyone is pulling together, with hot drinks and sandwiches being provided by businesses and residents elsewhere on the island.

The new Disaster Management Agency is also on the ground, providing temporary shelter in the form of tents and prefabricated buildings too, though the latter are essentially just four walls and a roof, being powered by generators. DMA engineers and climate scientists are also evaluating the towns existing flood defences, and will be making recommendations to the federal government to prevent something like this from happening again. The floods in Les Marais are the sixth flood to hit Anse Island in the last two years, and the tenth one across Sanctaria so far this winter. Though so far no lives have been lost, this is the latest community to be economically and socially devastated because of the already rising sea levels being exacerbated by heavier and heavier rains each winter.

LOUISA SOUTER, National Correspondent

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