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OFFBEAT

Algae suspected as boars found dead on French beach

Dozens of wild boars have turned up dead this month around a beach in western France, suspected victims of poisonous blue-green algae, officials say.

Three dead boars were found on Wednesday at the mouth of the Gouessant estuary in Brittany, an AFP journalist witnessed, bringing to 31 the number found this month, floating in the water or washed up in the area.

The nearby beach has been closed for safety, its cove stinking with algae which give off a poisonous gas when they rot.

“One of the theories we have is that the animals could have drunk water that could contain algae,” said Gilles Buet, a Brittany water official.

“They were not sick and they did not drown,” said local police official Philippe De Gestas.

“We found two carcasses in the morning, then five more, then it went up to 17” and later 18, he said on Tuesday.

Local authorities said in a statement that tests on the water revealed a level of blue-green algae “above the alert level but below the danger level”.

Officials and environmentalists say the spread of algae is driven by nitrates used in fertiliser. The proliferation of the minute organisms was speeded by unusually hot weather early this summer.

In 2009 a person in France died after working to clear algae, as well as a horse.

Officials were testing for hydrogen sulphide, a poisonous gas given off by the blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, when they decompose.

Gestas said they were also carrying out autopsies on some of the boars.

Further test results were due Wednesday, the statement said.

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POLLUTION

Paris faces legal claim over lead pollution from Notre-Dame fire

Paris authorities have been accused of failing to safeguard the health of people living near Notre-Dame cathedral due to lead pollution from a devastating fire two years ago.

Paris faces legal claim over lead pollution from Notre-Dame fire
A complaint has been lodged over lead pollution in Paris from the devastating fire at Notre Dame cathedral Photo: Fabien Barrau | AFP

Local families along with the Paris branch of the CGT trade union and the anti-pollution association Henri Pezerat, have filed the legal complaint alleging city and public health authorities endangered lives.

“Despite the scale of the fire and knowledge about the risk of pollution and contamination… no precaution in particular was taken by the authorities involved for more than three months after the fire,” according to a copy of the complaint seen by AFP.

It says 400 tonnes of lead from the roof of the Gothic masterpiece melted or were dispersed as microparticles over the French capital during the blaze on April 15, 2019.

“Children (in crèches and schools), neighbours and workers have clearly been exposed to the risk of lead” pollution, the complaint adds. “These facts amount to the crime of endangering the lives of others.”

The square in front of the cathedral was closed again to the public in May this year after tests revealed high concentrations of toxic lead particles.

Several months after the fire, city authorities ordered a deep-clean of schools in the area, while children and pregnant women were urged to have blood tests.

The complaint says the city withheld information from school directors and failed to act promptly. It also targets the police department, the culture ministry and regional health authorities.

The efforts of firefighters ensured the great medieval edifice survived the fire despite the collapse of the spire and much of the roof being destroyed.

But the lead risks delayed work on clearing debris and launching the restoration effort for the landmark, which President Emmanuel Macron wants open for visitors in time for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

Investigators have yet to determine the cause of the blaze, but they have said an accident, possibly caused by a short circuit or discarded cigarette butt, remains the most likely explanation.

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