Its heart torn out, the ill-fated Malpasset Dam overtowers the grim scene of its tragedy.?
Its heart torn out, the ill-fated Malpasset Dam overtowers the grim scene of its tragedy. Below in the valley, further along the Reyran River, a town mourns its dead and remembers the terror of Dec.3 when, whether through a mistake in Man's engineering or a freak of nature or both - no one yet knows - millions of tons of water swept aside the concrete dam and cut a fearful swath through the countryside and the little town of Frejus.
Three our accounted dead and one-hundred missing: millions of pounds of damage: hundreds of acres of arable farmland rendered arid and sterile - that's the cost this small part of the French Riviera paid for one night of disaster and death.
The dam was claimed as the "thinnest in the world". It tapered from a 22ft. 6in. base to 4ft. 11in. summit. Overall height was 197ft. It was brought into service in 1957 for supplying water to coastal towns and irrigating Reyran valley farms and vineyards. Constructed in concrete as a vaulted barrage, the Malpasset Dam was supported by and rested on a natural rock mass. Its left shoulder depended on a specially constructed concrete support.
The fractured dam wall has the appearance of a colossal staircase - and experts state that this proves that there was inconsistency in the quality of concrete used in construction.
As France mourns, France demands the head of the culprit or culprits responsible for the alleged faulty construction. It is said that experts examining the dam hours before the blocked river threw off its artificial construction saw small cracks in the wall.
Five French Government Ministers hastened to the disaster area and a special inquiry committee has reported back to President De Gaulle. It may take several weeks to evaluate evidence collected and draw conclusions as to the cause of the dam break.
Help came instantly to Frejus. Several thousand French troops were drafted to the town: helicopters flew into aid rescue work: thousand of pounds were donated to relief funds: Italian police divers rushed to help: blankets, food, medical supplies and prefabricated houses poured into Southern France from many countries.
But none of this spontaneous generosity can console the bereaved who buried many of their dead - whole families in some instances - in mass graves or family vaults in the tiny cemetery. Young children, old people, husbands and wives died as over one hundred houses crashed into rubble or were swept into the sea.
Rescue workers continue probing the drying red mud, dragging newly-formed pools or searching the sea for the missing. But the question still remains - why did the dam break, why wasn't there adequate warning for those in the path of the fury?