I am currently in Cannes, France. It’s rather nice to be back in a western country and rather strange at the same time. I can send things by post without thinking my packages will never arrive (I don’t recommend posting things from Russia, Ukraine, or Kazakhstan unless you have a business office address). There’s no revolution and war on my doorstep. It’s all very sunny and happy here on the Riviera. That is until Saturday the 3rd of October. Even in paradise hell can break loose.
I have a beautiful sea view from my terrace and enjoy watching the moon and stars glimmer over the water. That night I didn’t dare go outside. At around 8pm, the sky shook with torrential rain. It was like a shower on full power. In minutes the streets flooded. I huddled up tight as the storm roared outside, worried for others driving home. A colleague left work just as the rain had started to bucket down. He told me later that the roads were rivers. It was terrifying. “There were literally waves washing over the car!” His 10-minute-journey took him 1 hour and the car was sliding all over the place, pushed by the current. It was a miracle he arrived home safely.
I went to bed but couldn’t sleep. Around 11pm the power cut out. No internet, no phone, no lights, nothing but nature’s fierce attack. I woke up around 5am. The electricity had come back on.
By morning all was calm. The sea was serene, a glittering silky sheet, and the sun was shining gloriously. It was so bright I couldn’t see the horizon. The entire sky was burning white light. It was magnificent. Nature had gone from a mad rage to divine heavenly peace. I sat with my morning tea soaking up the view, the sun nursing the drenched grass and trees, and noticed vapour rising from the battered palm trees up into the air like smoke. There was a new yacht in the bay. I wondered how the boats had faired in the storm.
It was only when I saw my neighbour that I heard of the grief the storm had caused. 16 dead, 3 from the same family. When the internet was running by the afternoon, we finally were able to get more news. The death toll had risen to 17 and 4 missing. The French President was flying to Cannes, it was a national disasters and front page news. We had just lived through an apocalyptic storm.
The damage and loss was nothing seen before in the area. Just down the road lumps of rocks scattered everywhere, muddy banks sliding to the ground, trees hanging by their roots. My neighbours all had a story to tell. Some had been caught in the rain driving. They told me the elevator had flooded and the entire ground floor was a river. Schools were wrecked with water filling classrooms, flights grounded, trains stopped, cars washed miles away. My flatmate couldn’t get home until morning, she had waited 3 hours on the train which eventually was cancelled. People were stranded left and right. Others never made it to morning. 17 dead, some elderly drowned in nursing homes and others trapped in cars. The death toll is now said to be 19.
This all happened in one night. In that night the rain poured in three hours the amount of rain usually expected for the entire month. The Riviera turned to raging rivers, the worst it has ever experienced. It took us all by surprise.