Storm Alex: One year on, how are the valleys rebuilding thanks to the Principality’s support?

Monaco Tribune Albert II of Monaco Saint-Etienne-de-Tinée
Axel Bastello / Princes Palace of Monaco

One year ago, storm Alex hit the hinterland of Nice with full force.  Flooded by the storm, three valleys - Roya, Vésubie and, to a lesser extent, Tinée - suffered extensive damage. In response to the disaster, the Principality and Prince Albert II decided to release funds to help the families affected.  

In the Roya valley, the Monaco Red Cross is working to rebuild two bridges

The Roya valley was one of the hardest hit by the storms and is still in the process of being rebuilt.  In Tende, a small town of just over 2,000 inhabitants, 55 families are still waiting to get back to their homes.  "We have lost nearly eleven houses," says the mayor of the town, Jean-Pierre Vassallo. "These families will unfortunately not be able to return home before 2023."

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Contacted in the middle of the week, Jean-Pierre Vassallo had just returned from the Prefecture in Nice, with plenty of good news. "We wanted to get approval to make a plot of land eligible for building permission so that we could bring in a craftsman. It was a unanimous decision", he was relieved to say. "Decisions like these give us comfort and strength. It's an enormous challenge. We need to retain our current population while encouraging those who have left to come back.  It's going to be a tough winter, but we're looking to the future."

The Principality's support has been substantial. But above all it is the human kindness of the Monegasques that has helped us to fight on.

Jean-Pierre Vassallo, Mayor of Tende

Financial support in addition to moral support over the past few  months, and which Jean-Pierre Vassallo is not about to forget. "The Principality's support has been substantial. But above all it is the human kindness of the Monegasques that has helped us to fight on. Young Monegasque scouts who came to see us this summer want to come back to the campsite in December despite the cold. Prince Albert II came to visit us on two occasions in Breil-sur-Roya. The Monaco hospital helped us. The Automobile Club de Monaco has made ATVs available to us. I won't forget the help we've received."

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The Monegasque Red Cross has been very active in the hinterland of Nice since storm Alex came through, and has channelled almost 420,000 euros into the three valleys since 2 October 2020. These donations have helped families in distress, as have equipment and food collections. The Monegasque Red Cross is still on the ground, and now hopes to raise 59,000 euros to rebuild two private bridges at Breil-sur-Roya.

"These bridges will provide access for two families," says Claude Fabbretti, operational director for rescue and international actions within the MRC.  "We will present this project at the next executive committee meeting, in the presence of Prince Albert II."  An appeal for donations will also be launched soon by the Monaco Red Cross, to help make the building of these two bridges a reality.

In the Vésubie valley, the football pitch will soon be operational again thanks to support from Dmitry Rybolovlev

In Saint-Martin-Vésubie, the main town in the Vésubie valley, the damage was considerable.  The town's sports pitch was washed away and has completely disappeared.  Alerted as to the scale of the damage, Dmitry Rybolovlev, president of AS Monaco, was quick to donate 250,000 euros to the town.

Work should begin in March for completion at the end of 2022. Then we can welcome the AS Monaco players back again.

Ivan Mottet

A few months on, work has still not been able to start.  This is down to the riverbanks, which are not yet fully consolidated.  "The exact location isn't finalised yet, but it should be close to the old pitch, in the lower part of the village," said Mayor Ivan Mottet. "Work should begin in March for completion at the end of 2022. Then we can welcome the AS Monaco players back again."

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Saint-Martin-Vésubie is a 'summer residence' for the Monegasque club, whose first team would train at its pitch in the summer, during pre-season preparations.  A great sporting town, Saint-Martin-Vésubie also hopes to get its tennis courts and mountain bike trails back quickly.  "We are going to use the Principality's aid to put everything back in place," explains Ivan Mottet. "We also have our museum, which is the soul and memory of Saint Martin's inhabitants, as well as our cemetery." Many projects that should be completed over the next two years, when the banks are consolidated.

In the Tinée valley, the damage was less severe, but the villages of Valdeblore and Roubion were affected

The least affected by storm Alex, the Tinée valley did still suffer some damage. This is the case for the villages of Valdeblore and Roubion. The former, renowned for its architecture and picturesque landscapes, has yet to receive the aid granted by the Principality.

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According to town hall representatives, the aid has not yet arrived, and the promised amount has been halved. We contacted the Government, who wanted to provide some explanations. Xavier Pelletier, prefect in charge of the reconstruction of the valleys, met with several elected officials to discuss their urgent needs.

Through the Fondation du Patrimoine (heritage foundation), which is responsible for the management of the aid paid out by the Principality and the choice of restoration projects, a project for the village of Valdeblore has indeed been selected. It concerns the Vacherie de Mollières, a dairy farm in the village.