Knebworth’s twin town devastated by storm

THE French twin town of Knebworth, Ch�telaillon-Plage, has been devastated by a storm, causing untold damage to homes and residents’ livelihoods.

The Xynthia storm ripped through the seaside town, which hit the west coast of France at the end of last month and killed more than 50 people.

Joy Hall, chairman of Knebworth Twinning Association, said: “One local said it was like being caught up in a tsunami.

“It is a terrific blow for a town that relies heavily on tourism and harvesting oysters and mussels.

“The three-mile beach lost vast quantities of its sand and the concrete of the promenade was torn up and smashed.

“Huts and boardwalks were swept away or left as piles of planks and debris.

“Oyster and mussel beds were obliterated.

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“Boats were deposited on land and cars sucked into the sea.”

Mrs Hall said she has spoken to two town twinning members in Ch�telaillon-Plage whose home of 20 years was destroyed by a huge wave which swept right over their roof and backwashed into their house.

“The storm struck at night, while people were sleeping,” explained Mrs Hall. “One old lady awoke to find her bed floating in murky water.

“She was rescued by the fire brigade, who took her barefoot and in her wet nightdress to a house further up a hill.

“Another lady said she opened her window and found herself drawn out into a swirling current.

“Many people were imprisoned in their homes because electricity cuts made it impossible to open the electric shutters on their windows.

“One old couple refused to leave their home and were later found drowned inside.”

French prime minister Fran�ois Fillon has declared the storm a natural catastrophe, which frees up state funds to rebuild damaged areas.

Knebworth schoolchildren have written to children in the devastated town to help boost their morale.