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Ariadna Anisimov's defense

Exploring vulnerability to disaster risks and attributing responsibilities for the consequences: revisiting the Xynthia storm coastal floods and public trial in France

Thesis defended  on Friday, October 16, 2020 at 2:00 pm.
By videoconference


Abstract : The thesis revisits the Xynthia storm disaster in 2010 and the public trial that followed in 2014 to explore i) the conditions of vulnerability to the risk of coastal flooding in the municipality of La Faute-sur-Mer (Atlantic coast of France) and ii) the process of attributing responsibility for the consequences of the disaster. A case study analysis identifies risk governance gaps that have shaped vulnerability conditions in the commune. It explores the relationships between dynamic components of vulnerability stemming from social and institutional arrangements within a decentralized risk governance structure in France. This first analysis provides an important basis for examining the second research theme on the attribution of responsibility for the consequences of the disaster, in particular regarding the loss of life. This analysis focuses on the public trial that took place in 2014, where local authorities were charged with involuntary homicide for the deaths of 29 residents who drowned from coastal flooding in their homes in La Faute-sur-Mer. Based on the court proceedings and the evolution of the case study between 2014 and 2017, the analysis sheds light on issues confronted by the legal process to define and attribute responsibility to individuals for the consequences of disasters that involve a natural hazard. These two research themes on i) vulnerability associated with gaps in risk governance arrangements and (ii) attribution of responsibility for the consequences of disasters, are informed by an analytical framework on the social, institutional and organizational processes that shape vulnerability and risk-responsibility relationships presented in a literature review. Finally, the thesis discusses results from the case study analysis and proposes research opportunities on forward looking approaches to reduce disaster risk and implications on the allocation of responsibilities in participatory governance frameworks.

Keywords : disaster risk, governance, vulnerability, responsibility

Jury :

David ALEXANDER Professeur, University College London, IRDR Rapporteur
Bernard  BARRAQUÉ Directeur de Recherche, AgroParisTech, CIRED Examinateur
Alain JEUNEMAITRE Professeur, Ecole polytechnique, i3-CRG Directeur de thèse           
Freddy VINET Professeur, Université Paul Valéry, GRED Rapporteur