Nine drown swimming off French coast amid storms
- Nine deaths all occurred on Wednesday at various beaches on south of France
- Victims, mostly in their 60s and 70s, were caught unawares by the rough seas
- Dangerous underwater swells had been stirred up as a result of high winds
At least nine people have been swept out to sea and drowned in just one day while swimming off beaches in the south of France.
The victims, who were mostly in their 60s and 70s, were caught unawares by dangerous underwater swells that had been stirred up as a result of high winds.
The nine deaths all occurred on Wednesday at various beaches on the stretch of southern coastline near the cities of Marseille and Montpellier.
At least nine people were swept out to sea and drowned on Wednesday while swimming off various beaches in the south of France. Pictured: Rough seas in Hérault on Wednesday
Although considered to be generally calm, the waters along the Mediterranean coast can be deceptively treacherous with perilous underwater currents, rescue officials said.
An orange storm alert had been issued for the region of Hérault on Wednesday while both Aude and Bouches-du-Rhône regions were placed on a yellow alert and the red flag had been raised at several beaches, meaning that swimming was forbidden.
A spokesman for the French National Federation of Firefighters, Eric Brocardi, spoke to radio station Franceinfo on Thursday, saying: ‘This toll is dramatic.’
Mr. Brocardi said that though the local authorities had expected rough seas and issued warnings against or even banned swimming at certain beaches, unfortunately some people ‘defied the ban’.
The victims, mostly in their 60s and 70s, were caught unawares by dangerous underwater swells stirred up as a result of high winds – despite weather warnings being issued. Pictured: A firefighter patrols a beach in La Grande Motte, near Montpellier
In Hérault, where five people lost their lives, firefighters had posted a warning on their Twitter account reading: ‘Choppy seas are making water sports dangerous. Avoid swimming’
In Hérault, where five people sadly lost their lives on Wednesday, firefighters had posted a warning on their Twitter account earlier that day with a video showing the rough waves rolling onto the shore.
The warning message read: ‘Choppy seas are making water sports dangerous. Avoid swimming.’
Speaking to television broadcaster TF1 Aurélien Manenc, chief of the firefighting department in Hérault, said: ‘The water is warm, you think you are going to have fun, and quickly you are pulled toward the open sea and toward the bottom, and you get exhausted trying to come back. This is what causes the drowning.’
French politician Patrick Vignal, who represents the Hérault region, said that they will have to now consider if beaches should continue to be patrolled after the summer season
The fatalaties highlighted the lack of lifeguards on duty as the summer season draws to a close as well as the question of sufficient warning from local authorities for would-be swimmers.
French politician Patrick Vignal, who represents the Hérault region, speaking to channel BFMTV said that they will have to now consider if beaches should continue to be patrolled into September.
According to the health authorities in France, 250 fatal drownings were reported from June to August this year, a 5 percent decrease compared with the same period in 2018, the last time the figures were collected.
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