Floods: the heavy toll of Pas-de-Calais

Published on Nov 18, 2023 at 3:01 p.m.

“Everyone wants to leave.” Marc Leroy is a bit stunned. The combative vice-president of the Littoral Hauts-de-France chamber of commerce and industry fears the departure of businesses from the Liane area, in the Boulogne-sur-Mer conurbation. Here as in the entire Pas-de-Calais department, impressive floods took place due to exceptional rainfall, which reached 280 liters of rain per square meter on average. Boulonnais (around Boulogne-sur-Mer) and, inland, the region of Saint-Omer (about forty kilometers south of Calais and Dunkirk) particularly suffered, with the Canche leaving its bed, the Liane and the Aa.

The overall bill promises to be colossal. “Certainly” several billion, alerted Xavier Bertrand, the president of the region , on BFMTV. Because the damage is everywhere. The state of natural disaster must be recognized for 214 municipalities in Pas-de-Calais, as well as 30 in the North. Thousands of homes were affected. The region and the department have also announced that they will cover the natural disaster franchise equally, i.e. 380 euros per file. Pas-de-Calais alone saw half of its 6,000 kilometers of roads affected by flooding, with engineering structures remaining continuously underwater for two weeks.

Questions have been asked and alerted for a long time […] No one knows who is responsible and everyone pes the buck.

Marc Leroy Vice-president of the CCI Littoral Hauts-de-France

The business fabric has also suffered greatly. No sector is spared. Here, it is a cardboard factory which had to be evacuated. There, it’s a fish farming lost 75 tonnes of trout. Elsewhere, there are bungalows of campsites which are now uninhabitable, a two-star restaurant which is flooded, or a bakery and its new oven which have been devastated… Several important players have been hit, such as SBE a major player in mobile phone repair, or Roger Delattre, a specialist in metal framing.

A “task force”

This is also the case for the company run by Marc Leroy, the SIB rotogravure printing company, which saw hundreds of tonnes of paper disappear and was shut down, with 135 employees out of 150 on technical unemployment. . The vice-president of the CCI estimates his own damage at several millions. “There have never been floods like this, and here we had three in twelve days,” he said. One more hard blow after the surge in energy costs , in an already difficult context for the sector. Belgian colleagues and a Spaniard should, however, temporarily allow him to honor his orders.

The Hauts-de-France CCI, which is leading a “task force” set up with the State and the regional council, estimates the number of companies affected to be at least 400. This cell, equipped with a call center, aims to be a one-stop shop for all economic actors affected by the flood. In the Boulogne-sur-Mer region, the only area of ​​activity of the Liane has suffered several successive floods. “More than 90 companies are affected, which represents 1,500 to 2,000 jobs. Some of our members will not be able to restart for several months,” according to Franck Hélias, general delegate of Medef Côte d’Opale.

The situation is such that Emmanuel Macron went there last week, with his wife and three ministers (Ecological Transition, SMEs Agriculture), followed by Elisabeth Borne two days later, to demonstrate national solidarity. The Head of State announced an emergency fund of 50 million euros, which is added to that of 10 million euros decided by the Pas-de-Calais department. He also promised a fund of 80 million euros, allocated to the agricultural world, extended to the Brittany and Normandy regions in response to recent storms. “We will support our farmers to support exceptional production or equipment losses and limit the remaining costs as much as possible,” he ured. No less than 2,500 agricultural hectares were flooded, compromising the end of the harvest. beets while several dairy farms and the greenhouses of market gardeners in Saint-Omer were ravaged.

” Not enough “

“This state fund will allow us to respond to the emergency but we know that it will not be enough. We are currently making the diagnosis. These are millions and millions of euros needed to return to normal life,” analyzes Joël Duquenoy, president of the Pays de Saint-Omer urban community, referring to the damage to the roads. The question of responsibilities is likely to emerge quickly, beyond just bad weather. The president of the CCI Littoral, François Lavallée, discusses questions of territory Development and watercourse management.

Marc Leroy denounces the misdeeds of the administrative millefeuille, which hinders the good management of waterways. “We have been asking questions and warning people for a long time. The Liane has one meter of silt and three kilometers long. We discussed solutions which were swept aside. Nobody knows who is responsible and everyone pes the buck,” he gets angry, fearing that insurers will no longer want to cover the risk in this area. The ability of companies to anticipate climate risks is also questioned. A study by Goodwill Management recently indicated that if groups know how to organize themselves, small businesses are still too deprived in the face of climate risk, while the economic losses can be very heavy.

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