The obstacle course for these victims who are struggling to return home to La Roya

“SIf we have the bridge for Christmas, we’ll have to put a big red bow on it!” Roselyne Nicosia still wants to believe it… without daring to really believe it. Two years ago, during storm Alex, the raging waters of the Lavina, the river on the banks of which Roselyne and Salvatore live, in Breil-sur-Roya, carried huge blocks of rock and broke, sowing the destruction. For Roselyne, an unbearable memory: “It was impressive. The house has not moved, because it is built on large rocks. But the night of the storm, we could hear the blocks of stone carried by the river banging against the rocks, the ground was shaking… Half of our land was washed away. And our access bridge too…”

Access destroyed

Because to access the Nicosia house, you have to cross the river from the Graveres pedestrian path. No other access possible. However, the bridge, washed away, could not be rebuilt. Because the insurance didn’t cover it. “We no longer have access, we have to cross the bed of the river to get in and out of our house.”

An obstacle course, with a steep drop, which exhausts them. “With shopping, bags of kibble sometimes weighing 20 kilos for dogs, it’s difficult. We’re not young anymore.” Roselyn smiled.

Fatality? It was without counting on a surge of solidarity and the work of volunteers. The Mission Trekkeurs association, faced with the disarray of the couple, took the file in hand.

“This couple asked us to help them to build a pedestrian bridge and finally find access to their house. They are not considered as victims, while their lives are turned upside down”, exhibits Martial Lyonnais, president of the Mission Trekkeurs association.

Solidarity mission, the gateway provided by Vinci

It was enough for him to make this project a joint mission with the Vinci Foundation, and the associations Aid to disaster victims, Week-ends solidaires, and, of course, his own, Mission Trekkeurs.

And it takes: the Vinci Foundation is committed to designing and providing the footbridge free of charge, as well as the materials for the concrete abutments on which it will rest, but also the engineering aspect and the labor involved in its installation.

In addition, the Xyleo company, which specializes in wooden structures, has also agreed to provide free on-site assembly.

As usual, Mission Trekkeurs manages to lower the cost of the works to be carried out thanks to the solidarity links, the action and the free labor of the volunteers of the associations, including that of one of the ironworker volunteers of the association.

“Such a work, costing around 30,000 euros, we manage, thanks to this chain of solidarity, to lower it to less than 15,000 euros, says Martial Lyonnais. A possible sum to be reached thanks to the solidarity of donors. Everything is possible…”

Expensive studies, ongoing mediation

But the State, through the Departmental Directorate of Territories and the Sea (DDTM), came to undermine the euphoria. The DDTM required two preliminary studies, one technical, the other hydrogeological. “One in relation to the water law, the other because the area is in the blue land movement zone. We have made estimates: these two cumulative studies cost around 25,000 euros! Which jeopardizes the project. However, the footbridge is rigid, located more than 2.20 meters high above the river… Everything is done so that this construction respects the requests of the State”, estimated Martial Lyonnais, a few months ago.

In the meantime, mediation with the DDTM has been set up. “They studied the file and agreed that one of the two studies, given the configuration of the premises and the project, was not necessarily necessary, explains Martial Lyonnais. We have to fill out a very technical form, which will normally allow us to avoid 9,500 euros in studies. But there will remain, in any case, a “G2 Pro” study to be done, at a cost of 15,000 euros.

Obstacle course

In the meantime, Roselyne and Salvatore manage. The retiree continues to carry the races by quad to the land of a neighbor, on the right bank of the Lavina. Before transshipping everything on foot, somehow, to his house, located on his left bank. He descends into the bed of the river, bending under the weight of sacks of kibble for his animals, then borrows a basic pontoon made of wooden planks which spans the water flowing in the center, scrambles back up as best he can to come at the end of the blocks of stones on the other side of the bed, and finally borrows a last pontoon in wooden logs, uneven, to be able to reach the entrance of the property. A real obstacle course. “This winter, it had frozen, I slipped on the logssays Roselyne. It’s really physical…”

For the moment, the boards, placed on two flat stones, are there. “But the other day, the water was flush, worries Salvatore. What will happen with the next heavy rains?

Martial Lyonnais knows it: “This lady, one morning, she’s going to go to work. And if it rains a lot, when she gets back, she’ll realize that the boards have been washed away, and she won’t be able to go home… We can’t leave people like that…”

He is already imagining other temporary systems. “If necessary, we will come and do an operation, I have an idea, with longer supports, to raise the boards in relation to the level of the water… We will not abandon them”.

Roselyne, she still manages to joke: “My husband absolutely wanted an isolated house… Well, it succeeded”, she smiled, despite her dismay. She stands, erect, determined, facing the river, alongside Salvatore. Two forces of nature… facing each other.

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The obstacle course for these victims who are struggling to return home to La Roya


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