French Insurers Assess Damage from Record Floods

June 6, 2016 by Helene Fouquet

Insurance executives meet with government officials in Paris Monday to assess the cost of flooding in the Centre and Ile-de-France regions as the Seine river recedes from its highest levels in more than three decades.

The river flowing through the French capital was 5.5 meters (18 feet) above its normal level at 6 p.m. Sunday after reaching at 6.10 meters at 2 a.m. on Saturday, according to Vigicrues, the French floods watchdog. Last week the Seine was near to the 6.18-meter mark reached in 1982, according to data from the Environment & Energy Ministry.

“We have to be cautious but the cost may be much higher” than the 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) reported by French media Sunday, Juliette Meadel, the minister overseeing relief for victims, said late Sunday on France 3 television. “We want to meet with them to have a response that fits the gravity of the situation.”

Meadel, who is meeting with insurers at her Paris office Monday, called for fair and quick compensation for those affected by the flooding. In an interview with RTL radio Sunday, Finance Minister Michel Sapin said the natural disaster won’t dent the French economy.

The floodwaters are receding as strikes that have disrupted transport across the country begin to abate. Fifty-four percent of respondents said they want to see an end to the protests against government plans to overhaul labor rules in a BVA poll published Sunday by I-tele and Orange. Three weeks ago, a majority supported industrial action.

Costs of Flooding

All ministers and senior officials involved in responding to the floods met with the Prime Minister Manuel Valls early Monday. Following the talks, Valls said the government will create an emergency fund for victims to help them immediately “for those who lost everything,” Agence France-Presse reported.

The cabinet probably will declare the floods a “natural disaster” as soon as June 8 at its weekly meeting, opening the way for insurer payments, President Francois Hollande said Sunday on France Inter radio.

The French insurance-industry association AFA estimated the costs may reach 600 million euros ($682 million) on June 3. Maif, one of France’s biggest insurance companies, said expenses may be as much as 2 billion euros, the Figaro daily reported.

The French railway system is facing a sixth day of strikes on Monday. Local and regional trains are suffering severe delays, though services to the U.K., Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland are running well, according to operator SNCF.

Hollande said that disruption to the transport system would be over by the time the Euro 2016 international soccer tournament begins across France on June 10.

“No one would understand if strikes on trains or planes prevented spectators from attending their games,” Hollande said on French Radio. “The competition will run well.”