FRANCE: Rough Mediterranean seas in the south of France have caused the death of at least seven people, authorities say.
They were swept out to sea while swimming off seven beaches – despite warnings of dangerous choppy waters.
Five people, in their 60s and 70s, died at five beaches in Hérault, in the south west. Another two men, aged 58 and 71, drowned at two beaches in the Bouches-du-Rhône, further east.
Emergency services in Hérault tried to save 12 people drowning off beaches at Agde, La Grande-Motte, Marseillan, Serignan and Vias. Seven were rescued but five died.
“Wednesday 15 September will remain a black day for the Hérault coast,” wrote local newspaper Midi Libre.
Two swimmers drowned off beaches at Cassis and La Ciotat in the Bouches-du-Rhône after being dragged out to sea, local media reported.
“I cannot understand how people got into the water when the seas were rough. It’s a dramatic day for our region,” said Jordan Dartier, the mayor of Vias, where one man drowned after reportedly falling from rocks.
“Choppy seas are making water activities dangerous,” the rescue service tweeted — a video of waves crashing into the shoreline.
Local fire chief Aurélien Manenc told broadcaster TF1: “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.”
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Four départements in the south of France — Allier, Aveyron, Cantal, and Puy-de-Dôme are on orange weather alert for storms, a day after record rainfall led to localised flooding. Residents in the badly affected Gard département are braced for more bad weather on Wednesday. Residents in Hérault, Drôme, and Ardèche, are also warned to be aware of heavy storms that could see up to 120mm of rainfall in some areas in a short period of time.
Two-and-a-half months of rain fell in just a few hours in the Gard on September 14, flooding streets and homes in more than 60 communes.