Hundreds of French communes named as ‘natural disaster zones’ for drought

More than 1,000 French communes have been designated 'natural disaster zones' due to drought.

Hundreds of French communes named as 'natural disaster zones' for drought
Traces of bird's feet are seen on cracks are seen on a dry part of the bed of the Loire river in 2020 (Photo by Sebastien SALOM-GOMIS / AFP)

France’s Journal Officiel published a decree on Friday designating 1,022 communes across the country as ‘natural disaster zones’, namely drought, based on information from 2021 and 2022.

Qualifying as a natural disaster zone allows people living in the area to claim specific financial assistance from insurers, and to have their claim dealt with more quickly. The objective is to allow people to be adequately compensated for damage to their property. 

Areas affected by events such as storms, mudslides and flooding are often designated natural disaster zones, but drought has become a more common reason for qualifying for the status.

The 1,022 communes are mostly in the south of the country, although more than half (59) of France’s mainland départements have at least one natural disaster zone.

Five départements came out on top for having the most ‘natural disaster zones’ for drought. They were: Jura with 164 communes, Indre-et-Loire with 133, Charente-Maritime with 86, Gironde with 65 and Dordogne with 54.

You can find the total list of communes under ‘natural disaster status’ here.

READ MORE: What does a state of ‘natural disaster’ mean in France?

When it comes to drought-induced damage, this typically involves soil shrinkage (via the ‘shrink-swell phenomenon’) which can lead to cracks both in the interior and exterior walls of a building or home, as well as in chimneys or tiles. 

According to AFP estimates, more than 10 million French homes are at risk of cracking in the event of severe drought. 

With drought having become more common and long-lasting in France in recent years, French insurers have noted an uptick in drought-related claims.

The country’s insurers’ federation, France Assureurs, told Ouest France that they estimated the total cost of drought damage to French single-family homes in 2022 was €2.5 billion, a record high since France first invented the natural disaster status in 1982. 

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French minister ‘angry’ with big oil producers at COP28

The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is pushing against proposals to target fossil fuels at the COP28 climate summit, drawing fury from France.

French minister 'angry' with big oil producers at COP28

French Energy Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher said Saturday she was “stunned” after the oil cartel OPEC urged its members to thwart any deal targeting fossil fuels at the COP28 conference.

“I am stunned by these statements from OPEC. And I am angry,” she said from the climate conference in Dubai, adding that “OPEC’s position endangers the most vulnerable countries and the poorest populations who are the first victims of this situation”.

The minister said she was “counting on the presidency of the COP not to be influenced by these declarations, and to reach an agreement which affirms a clear objective of phasing out fossil fuels”.

OPEC Secretary General Haitham Al Ghais sent a letter to the group’s 13 members and 10 Russian-led allies this week after negotiators at talks in Dubai released a draft deal that included calls for a phase-out of fossil fuels.

In the letter sent Wednesday, Ghais urges the group to “proactively reject any text or formula that targets energy i.e. fossil fuels rather than emissions”.

The letter has drawn anger from activists and the High Ambition Coalition, a broad group of nations ranging from Barbados to France, Kenya and Pacific island states.

Spain’s ecology transition minister Teresa Ribera called the move “disgusting”.