Tsunami in the Mediterranean: Occitanie, Provence, Côte d’Azur… what would be the areas most at risk in France?

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Unesco has just warned of the fairly high risks of a tsunami in the Mediterranean Sea in the next thirty years. In France, the Côte d’Azur could be on the front line in the face of disaster. But what would be the risk for the coasts of Occitania? Make the point.

For UNESCO, the risk of a tsunami occurring in the Mediterranean Sea in the next thirty years is “very high”. The United Nations organization has even extended its “Tsunami Ready” program, intended to prevent disaster, in certain areas in France. Although the Mediterranean is vast, and the risks also concern Greek islands or Egyptian cities, certain areas of the Côte d’Azur would be more at risk than others in the event of a tsunami.

Cannes soon “Tsunami Ready”

This famous “Tsunami Ready” prevention program already concerns the city of Alexandria in Egypt and the Greek islands of Kos and Samos are also offered according to Bernardo Aliaga, ocean expert at the UNESCO office.

In France, the city of Cannes is working on the program. On site, the institutions are aware of the danger and even indicate what to do in the event of a disaster. “In Cannes, the tsunami risk mainly concerns the near coast of the town. The risk zone is that located at an altitude of less than 5 meters above sea level and less than 200 meters from the shore in a plain area” , can we read on the website of the city of Cannes.

This is serious. A “charter on the risk of tsunamis and marine flooding in the Bay of Cannes” has even been drafted. Among other things, we can read in the latter that two tsunami warning exercises, in October 2017 and November 2018, were carried out in the sector, or that a “Cannes Alert” dissemination network was set up.

Nice minted in 1979

If the Alpes-Maritimes department is on such high alert, it is because a tsunami already hit the city of Nice in 1979. Based on this historical fact, one can imagine that, like Cannes, Nice is one of the risk areas in the next thirty years. The disaster at the time was caused by a landslide at Nice airport. The city, as well as several districts of the coast of Antibes were flooded with a wave of 3.5 meters high. Result: eleven dead and numerous material damages.

Overall, the Alpes-Maritimes are making every effort to manage the disaster if it should occur. Recently, a “crisis management exercise” was organized at Nice airport, reports the newspaper 20minutes, the idea being to “test the response devices”.

As far as Occitania is concerned, no notable event has yet been deplored on the coast. The risks are low but do exist. In Aude, for example, tsunami warning exercises were already organized in 2012.

Marseille spared?

Marseille could be spared the tsunami risk. In any case, this is what Michel Villeneuve, geologist and honorary director of research at the CNRS, argued in an article by Provence in 2021: “The city of Marseille, which is activated North-South, and which is protected by the Calanques massif, should see the wave pass offshore towards Frioul and the Blue Coast”, noted the expert.

On the other hand, other cities such as Cassis could suffer the full brunt of the devastating consequences of a tsunami: “The gulfs and lowlands amplify the waves. Thus gulfs like that of Cassis or the Camargue will see the effects of ‘an amplified tsunami compared to a straight and high coast’, added Michel Villeneuve in Provence.

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