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Five die in Guadeloupe floods ahead of Sarkozy visit

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Reuters/Gilles Petit

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is headed to the French Caribbean, where he will present his new year’s greetings this weekend to the 2.5 million people in France’s overseas departments and territories. He will give the greetings on Sunday in Guadeloupe, where five people died earlier this week in flooding.


Sarkozy and his wife, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, start their three-day visit on Friday in Martinique, and will then go to Guadeloupe.

This is Sarkozy’s first visit to the island departments that were paralysed by six weeks of strikes in 2009 against the high cost of living.

During his visit, he will remind the departments that the French government held to its promises by agreeing to public servant wage increases and other demands by the unions, and that it is now up to people to wean themselves from public aid and take their destinies into their own hands.

Some 580 million euros in emergency funds have been provided by the government, but unemployment is still very high - 24 per cent in Guadeloupe and 21 per cent in Martinique - and inflation is rising faster than in mainland France.

Sarkozy’s visit comes as Guadeloupe is recovering from floods caused by heavy rains.

The minister in charge of France's overseas territories, Marie-Luce Penchard, said Thursday in Guadeloupe's largest city Pointe-à-Pitre that local officials will have access to a million euros of loans to help with the clean-up operation.

The ministry said about a dozen people on the island had to be rescued by fire-fighters.

On Tuesday night five people died in a vehicle that was overtaken by floodwaters when it was trying to cross a bridge over a ravine in a Pointe-à-Pitre suburb.

Officials said the accident was avoidable, as the vehicle should not have tried to cross the bridge.