What should have been a simple summer ritual turned tragic on Tuesday night when a 59-year-old man was burned to death while lighting a barbecue on his balcony.
The blaze consumed the seafront apartment in Sète, on the Mediterranean coast of southern France, at around 10.30 pm, according to local daily Midi Libre.
“Witnesses saw the victim lighting his barbecue, and in the following minutes, the apartment went up in flames,” a police source told AFP.
A large contingent of firefighters, police and CRS riot police in the department of Hérault arrived on the scene, and 14 people, including seven police officers, were treated for the effects of smoke inhalation.
Some 140 neighbours, 30 of whom had been involved in efforts to put out the blaze, had to be evacuated from the vicinity, according to Midi Libre.
A further 10 locals were re-housed overnight, such was the extent and intensity of the fumes.
The tragic death of the man on Tuesday is not the first example in France this week of how an innocent BBQ can be potentially deadly.
On the previous night a family from Sorgues in the south of France somehow escaped without injuries when a gas canister exploded as they enjoyed their own barbecue in their garden.
Firefighters said it was a miracle that no one was hurt. Debris was found as far as 100metres away from the grill and windows at the home were blown out.
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According to the Ministry of Health there are 200 accidents each year related to barbecues with paramedics regularly called out to deal with serious burns.
“Once a year we take a patient to hospital who has suffered serious burns,” firefighters from Ile-et-Vilaine in Brittany told Ouest-France newspaper earlier this month.
- Firefighters advise that you never use flammable substances like alcohol to start the bbq, which are responsible for most accidents. It is preferable to light the bbq in the traditional way.
- Always have sand and water nearby to put out the fire if necessary. Don’t wait for the embers to die out, it is better to put out the bbq once you have finished using it.
- Keep children well away from the grill. They are involved in 15 percent of all accidents.