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French mayor convicted over deadly sea wall breach

December 12, 2014

PARIS (AP) — A French court has sentenced a former mayor and his deputy to prison for ignoring flood risks and encouraging development in their Atlantic Coast town before aging sea walls collapsed in a 2010 storm that killed dozens.

The storm, called Xynthia, smashed through thousands of homes, destroyed oyster farms, flooded ports and unleashed heavy criticism of weak sea walls along the coast.

The court found that town officials in La Faute-sur-Mer “intentionally hid” information about flood risks so as not to scare away lucrative development on the town’s picturesque, poorly protected shoreline.

Former Mayor Rene Marratier told reporters after the verdict Friday in western France that his four-year prison sentence was “unjust.”

Environmental groups argue that climate change makes it even more urgent for France to shore up sea defenses.

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