Suspended prison sentences of twelve to eighteen months were requested on Thursday January 18 against Anaïs Gledel, former director of the Orpea retirement home in Biot (Alpes-Maritimes) and the former mayor of the town, Guilaine Debras , for the drowning of three residents in floods in 2015. Prosecutor Alain Guimbard also requested a twelve-month suspended sentence against the city’s natural risks manager, Yann Pastierik. A fine of 50,000 euros has been requested against the Orpea group.

On the evening of October 3, 2015, powerful storms transformed several rivers in the region into torrents of water and mud, causing the death of twenty people and considerable damage. In Biot, a hilly town of nearly 10,000 inhabitants north of Antibes, a wave of flooding devastated several neighborhoods and invaded the ground floor of the Clos Saint-Grégoire retirement home. Three residents, aged 82, 91 and 94, drowned.

The defendants have been appearing since Tuesday before the Grasse criminal court for involuntary homicide, while Ms. Gledel and the Orpea group are also on trial for endangering the lives of others for the ordeal of the residents who survived.

“Total unpreparedness”

As the debates come to an end, more than eight years after the events, Mr. Guimbard denounced the “dialogue of the deaf” which prevailed, evoking “anger in the face of a total denial of responsibility”.

“There was a climatic event of exceptional but predictable magnitude and [the three drownings] were caused because the residents were not evacuated to the first floor,” he noted, recalling that this had been done twice, once at the last minute in 2005 and the other as a precaution in 2011.

On the town hall side, “no one knew what to do. No alert system in working order, no on-call system (…). We are totally unprepared,” denounced the prosecutor. For their part, “the Orpea group and its director cannot mention their inexperience or their lack of knowledge of the regulations. At this level of responsibility, this is not admissible,” he insisted.

The hearing is scheduled to continue Friday with defense arguments. The judgment should be reserved.