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Frenchwomen flee to cave to escape wi-fi rays

Two women claiming to suffer from electro-hypersensitivity have resorted to living in a cave in the French Alps. They say they have been made ill by wireless internet and mobile phones.

Anne Cautain and Bernadette Touloumond live the life of hermits in the cave near Saint-Julien-en-Beauchêne in the Haute-Alpes region. The two women have sought refuge there due to their hyper-sensitive reactions to the electro-magnetic radiation caused by waves from wireless communication.

The two have tried to make their cave comfortable, installing two beds and a small table. Yet their candle-lit sanctuary has no heating or electricity.

“This will be my third winter here,” Cautain told the AFP news agency. “Believe me. I would prefer to be in a house, sitting in front of the fireplace.”

The 55-year-old has long suffered from terrible headaches, which she says are a result of her sensitivity to the electro-magnetic radiation.

She had previously lived in a farmhouse in the region but then the installation of mobile phone masts made it impossible to stay there, she told Alpes 1 radio. Her daughter, Laure Cautain, appealed for the creation of so-called “white zones,” areas free from electro-magnetic pollution.

Robin des Toits, a group that campaigns against mobile phone masts, estimates that only a few dozen people in France suffer from this extreme form of electro-sensitivity also known as EHS, but that around 3 percent of the French population are prone to milder forms of the condition.

EHS is not, however, officially recognized as a medical condition. “There is no proof of a causal link between exposure to radio frequencies and hypersensitivity,” the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety (ANSES) concluded in a 2009 report.

Dominique Belpomme, professor of oncology at the Paris-Descartes University, argues, however, that clinical studies have proven that electro-magnetic rays can adversely affect health. He said that Cautain and Touloumond could probably be treated for their condition, for example with antihistamines.

Cautain, however, prefers natural methods. She and Touloumond are growing organic marrows, apples and pears in crates that line the entrance to their cave residence.

Despite their extreme solution to their health problems, the two women refuse to consider themselves drop outs.

“When I arrived in this cave I asked myself what had I done to end up here. I couldn’t believe it,” said Touloumond, a former flight attendant, now in her 60s. “I’ve been treated like a crazy woman,” she told AFP. “I’ve lost a lot of friends and my family find it hard to understand.”

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OFFBEAT

France’s mystery rooftop panther stolen from zoo

A black panther rescued from rooftops near the northern city of Lille last week has been stolen from the zoo where it was taken after capture, officials said.

France's mystery rooftop panther stolen from zoo
Photo: AFP/ Sapeurs Pompiers du Nord

The feline was seized overnight from the zoo in Maubeuge near the Belgian border, the city's mayor, Arnaud Decagny, told AFP on Tuesday.

“This animal was the only target,” Decagny said, adding that “considerable efforts” were made to force locks and avoid security systems.

Zoo personnel are worried about the young panther's health, “which is rather delicate because he lacks strength,” the mayor added, saying the animal was just a few months old and weighed between 25 and 30kg.

The panther after its capture. Photo League Protectrice des Animaux de la Nord de France/AFP

The panther was going to be transferred to a centre specialised in rehabilitating wild animals that had been domesticated.

Firefighters caught the cat last Wednesday as it roamed rooftops in Armentieres after escaping through the window of a private apartment believed to have been its home.

The panther's owner is thought to have escaped through the same window, for fear of being charged with illegally harbouring a wild animal.

Police have not located the fugitive owner, who could face charges of endangering the public, which is punishable by up to a year in prison and €15,000 in fines, Decagny said.

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