Pity the Côte-d’Azur. It’s not often those words spring to the lips but, my word, they’re relevant today. From Menton via Nice to Cannes and beyond, hundreds are involved in a major repair and clean-up operation after the coast was battered by the angriest, roughest seas anyone can remember in a month of May.
For four hours from 4pm yesterday (Tuesday), waves up to 35-feet high crashed onto beaches and sea-fronts . They wrecked everything in their way. Fifteen or more beach bars and clubs on Nice’s Bay of Angels were reduced pretty much to splinters.
Furniture, decking, fittings, concrete footings, ironwork: all were destroyed or ripped out to sea. “It wasn’t a tsunami, but it damned well looked like one,” a beach-bar owner told reporters. The famous beach pebbles – recently renewed after winter damage – were picked up and hurled onto the Promenade des Anglais. Sea-front properties had to barricade themselves against the furious Med. battering at their façades. The Prom’s tarmac was torn up.
And all this just as the beach establishments were gearing up for the May start of the season. Everything was in place. Now much of it is gone. “The bill will run in to millions of euros,” said an official. Another beach proprietor, surveying the devastation, said: "That's 30 years of work down the tubes." He, like everyone else involved in coastal business, is now racing against the calendar to restore a semblance of order in order to rescue early-season fortunes.
Things were little better in Cannes, where the Croisette took a hammering. Water surged across it, tossing cars about. Yachts in the port were “thrown around like model boats,” according to an eye-witness. Temporary structures erected for the coming film festival were badly hit. "It was like a disaster movie," said another witness. Teams are working round the clock to effect repairs in time for the festival's opening in 10 days time.
Monaco, too, felt the force of the Med’s violence. Parts of the Fontvieille frontage are, this morning, a no-man’s-land. Photos show a four-wheel-drive motor flipped from the road and now perched on the rocks. St-Tropez was, though, relatively spared. While nearby St Raphaël received a smacking, St Tropez's northern orientation meant it escaped the worst.
The culprit is apparently a depression off the Balearic islands, combined with unusually strong southern winds. It comes after a particularly rough winter which had already caused much damage.
Moves are now afoot to have the area declared a “natural catastrophe zone”, essentially so that insurance payments can kick in.
As I said, sympathy is not easy to elicit for the sunny folk of the Côte-d’Azur. But they need it now. There is, though, no need to change travel arrangements you've made, or are planning to make. The villages, towns and cities remain absolutely open for business. All that you'll find is a startled sense of lingering surprise and, for the time being, a lack of the beach establishments. I'll keep you abreast of how repair works are going on over the days to come.