More than six months have passed since Storm Alex devastated the valleys of the Alpes-Maritimes department in France. Many organisations are still helping the victims with the Monégasque Red Cross amongst those continuing to reconstruct the devastated region.

Whole villages were buried, roads swept away and houses completely destroyed, as Storm Alex wreaked havoc on the night of the 2 October 2020. The damage done to the valleys, namely la Roya, la Tinée, la Vésubie and le Var, is still apparent, as practically nothing has changed in the six months that have passed.

As well as the social effects resulting from the disaster, there has been significant physical damage to the valleys too: around 60 homes and 100 buildings have been destroyed. Within days of the storm striking, the Monégasque Red Cross had sprung into action, supporting other members of the rescue and cleanup operation with the goal of “helping those who help”, as explains Claude Fabbretti, Director of First Aid and International Aid at the organisation.

Three weeks after the storm, €175,000 had been donated to help victims, and six months later, “more than €400,000 had been raised”, according to Frédéric Platini, General Secretary of the Monégasque Red Cross.

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Time to rebuild the valleys

For several months now the Red Cross has been working hard to remove debris from villages so that residents can hopefully move back home. They have also been focusing on improving travel links, aiming to make major roads in the region accessible again.

However, on the 17 April this year, the organisation faced their most recent challenge yet: to help a retired couple living in Tendes. During the storm, Roselyne and Gérand watched as two metres worth of mud swept away everything they owned, leaving their home uninhabitable. “We’ve already cleared a lot of the rubble and debris, but there’s just so much that we can’t do it all by ourselves,” they said.

Living temporarily in a studio in the old town, they have been patiently waiting on their insurance to rebuild their home. However, in order for this to happen, the house needs to be stable. Rallying together, the Monégasque Red Cross is just one group of volunteers helping them pull off this mammoth task.

It’s painstaking work

50 volunteers raring to go

Pickaxes, shovels and hammers all at the ready. Around 50 volunteers, 15 of whom are from the Monégasque Red Cross, have all been working on the house since 9am. The team have two main goals for the day ahead, “to build a drainage system in case of more heavy rainfall” and to “clear away all the debris from around the house so repair works can begin,” explains Claude Fabbretti.

Volunteers from the organisation did not show up empty-handed. In fact, had the Red Cross not brought so much equipment with them from the Principality, particularly the five tonne forklift, the work would have been much more difficult. Centimetre by centimetre, the volunteers are cleaning the house from top to bottom. “It’s painstaking work,” remarked one of them.

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Monégasque Red Cross Storm Alex (1)
© Benoît Sorre

An app to help the valleys

It is true that the Monégasque Red Cross and other organisations have all come together to help Roselyne and Gérard, but without a certain man from Menton named Nicolas, none of this solidarity would have been possible. Hoping to do his bit to help those affected by the storm, he launched the app “Aide 1 Vallée” (“Help a valley”) to connect victims with volunteers. Easy to use and free of charge, anyone can download this app. All it requires is for victims to make a post detailing the help they need. Since October, more than 300 construction projects have been successfully completed thanks to this innovative app.

The Monégasque Red Cross continues to plan future projects in order to provide long-term support to the valleys during their recovery from Storm Alex.

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