French storms: Nine drown in rough Mediterranean sea

Authorities urge swimmers to avoid water again on Thursday after ‘black day’ on south coast

Eleanor Sly
Thursday 16 September 2021 10:03
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<p>An orange weather warning is in place in the region </p>

An orange weather warning is in place in the region

Nine people died in a single day after drowning in choppy Mediterranean seas in the south of France, say authorities.

The victims were all swept out to sea whilst swimming in waters which had been stirred up by a combination of storms and high winds.

The incidents occurred at five beaches in Hérault, two beaches in the Bouches-du-Rhône area, in the south west of France and at two beaches in the Aude region.

A total of five individuals, in their 60s and 70s died at Hérault, while two men aged 58 and 71 drowned in Bouches-du-Rhône. A further two men between 65 and 80 drowned at Leucate, in the Aude.

Hérault’s emergency services attempted to rescue 12 people who were drowning off beaches at Agde, La Grande-Motte, Marseillan, Serignan and Vias. Seven of these people were rescued but five died.

People were urged to avoid swimming due to the rough waters, with Hérault’s fire and rescue service tweeting: “Choppy seas are making water activities dangerous,” in a bid to discourage swimmers from entering the sea. In a later tweet, they also called on people to avoid swimming on Thursday.

A further two swimmers were dragged out to sea and drowned off beaches at Cassis and La Ciotat in the Bouches-du-Rhône, reported local media.

Meanwhile, an 80-year-old man was dragged out to sea by the swell at Leucate beach and a 64 year old man drowned at Franqui beach, according to France Bleu.

Local newspaperMidi Libre called the day a “black day”, writing: “Wednesday 15 September will remain a black day for the Hérault coast.”

By late Wednesday afternoon, police officers in Hérault evacuated any beaches without lifeguards present.

Local fire chief Aurélien Manenc told broadcaster TF1that people did not understand the dangers of underwater currents.

He explained: “The water is warm, you think you are going to have fun, and quickly you are pulled towards the open sea and towards the bottom, and you get exhausted trying to come back - this is what causes drowning or the beginning of drowning.”

An orange weather alert is currently active in the region, warning of storms and flooding.

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