A Frenchman who pretended to be an emergency coordinator and organized rescue operations after a storm hit France in 2010 has gone on trial for fraud. 

"/> A Frenchman who pretended to be an emergency coordinator and organized rescue operations after a storm hit France in 2010 has gone on trial for fraud. 

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Man posed as rescuer – charged with fraud

A Frenchman who pretended to be an emergency coordinator and organized rescue operations after a storm hit France in 2010 has gone on trial for fraud. 

Philippe Berre, 57, appeared in court on Thursday, with prosecutors calling for a five-year jail sentence. 

In the village of Charron, his victims say he was “friendly” and “very efficient”. In March 2010, the village on the west coast of France was hit by a storm, Cyclone Xynthia, which killed over 50 people.

In the aftermath, Berre introduced himself as a civil servant working for the Agriculture Ministry sent to organise rescue and the clean-up operations. 

Berre very quickly became the man in charge. He used forged documents to requisition firms, hotel rooms for firefighters. He reportedly sent rescue vehicles and all sorts of lorries for an estimated €70,000.

The court heard on Thursday that most state officials did not suspect Berre of being a fraud. During operations, he would transport them in his stolen car. The judge told the court that he had become “the head of the headquarters of the rescue operations”.

At the trial, the prosecutor accused Berre of fraudulently organising rescue operations to “compensate for his narcissistic failures.”

RESCUE

VIDEO: Two children in France caught by crowd after 10-metre jump from burning building

Two brothers, three and 10, have escaped unhurt after they were forced to jump out of their third-floor apartment into the arms of waiting neighbours.

VIDEO: Two children in France caught by crowd after 10-metre jump from burning building
The incident happened in the Villeneuve area of Grenoble. Illustration photo: AFP

Sofiane and his younger brother Soleiman were both discharged from hospital on Wednesday where they, along with 17 other residents of the building in the Villeneuve area of Grenoble, had been treated for smoke inhalation following a fire on Tuesday. 

 

 

Dramatic video captured by a passer-by shows the boys appearing at the window of the third-storey apartment.

With black smoke billowing and screams from the street  below, the older boy drops his little brother into the arms of passers-by before making the jump himself.

Several of their rescuers suffered injuries to their arms, wrists and hands, but the boys escaped unscathed. 

'I closed my eyes and jumped'

10-year-old Sofiane has been hailed a hero after having the presence of mind to drop his brother into the waiting arms of the crowd.

“I was in my room watching TV when I saw the smoke coming,” he told Le Parisien newspaper.

After attempting to take refuge in the kitchen, he brought his little brother to the window to breathe.

“People at the bottom of the building were telling me to throw him. I grabbed him by his shirt and let him go.

“I wasn't scared, even though it was high. I closed my eyes and jumped.”

Both brothers are now back in the care of their family. 

Proud father

Sofiane's father Ahmed is proud of his son's courage.

“He's a hero too. He acted with great composure in a difficult situation,” he told French media.

The children had been left home alone while their mother went out with her third child to buy bread after Ahmed had already left for work.

Both parents will be questioned by police. 

Grenoble mayor Éric Piolle hailed the rescue, which he said underscored the city’s “tradition of solidarity and mutual help”.

The cause of the blaze is still unknown.

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