Beachgoer killed by lightning strike in Riviera

Lightning killed a second person in France in just a week on Thursday when a 47-year-old man died on a beach near Saint Tropez during a thunderstorm on the French Riviera.

Beachgoer killed by lightning strike in Riviera
Photo: AFP/Valery Hache

The bolt of lightning struck the man at the Mediterranean resort town of Bormes-les-Mimosain in the Var region.

The accident occurred at about 5pm, according to local news reports and came after weather forecasters had warned of thunderstorm risks in the region.

Medics attempted to resuscitate the victim without success, France 3 Provence-Alpes said.

The man’s wife was also injured by the bolt the TV station said, although not she was not seriously hurt.

The death came a week after lightning killed a 45-year-old German man on July 11th while he was sitting on a terrace in the village of Pietricaggio in Corsica.

Electricity was conducted by a metal ramp and struck the man, who could not be saved by medics.

And a week earlier, four hikers had to be taken to hospital for treatment of injuries after being electrocuted by lightning in the south of the island.

Every year in France, lightning strikes 100 to 200 people, with 10 to 20 deaths annually, according to the French lightning protection association (Association Protection Foudre).

The association notes that victims who escape death can suffer serious burns and psychological shock.

The risk of getting hit rises in the summer when thunder storms accompany periods of warm weather. France is set to be hit by a heatwave at the beginning of next week, which forecasters say will be followed by heavy thunderstorms.

Experts say that is wise to heed the warnings of weather forecasters and to stay away from water (a conductor of electricity) and open spaces, such as beaches, in the event of a storm.

Other advice includes avoiding standing near tall objects like trees or towers that can attract lightning. Flying kites or carrying an umbrella is also advised against.

Cars are considered safe places to be in lightning storms even though they are made of metal, according to the wikiHow website.

If struck by lightning, the electricity will conduct around the body of the car to the ground, the website says.

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Scorching summer was France’s second hottest on record

Three heatwaves since June produced France's second-hottest summer since records began in 1900, the Météo France weather service said on Tuesday, warning that scorching temperatures will be increasingly common as the climate crisis intensifies.

Scorching summer was France's second hottest on record

With 33 days of extreme heat overall, average temperatures for June, July and August were 2.3C above normal for the period of 1991-2020.

It was surpassed only by the 2003 heatwave that caught much of France unprepared for prolonged scorching conditions, leading to nearly 15,000 heat-related deaths, mainly among the elderly.

Data is not yet available for heat-related deaths this summer, but it is likely to be significantly lower than 15,000 thanks to preventative measures taken by local and national authorities. 

Most experts attribute the rising temperatures to the climate crisis, with Météo France noting that over the past eight summers in France, six have been among the 10-hottest ever.

By 2050, “we expect that around half of summer seasons will be at comparable temperatures, if not higher,” even if greenhouse gas emissions are contained, the agency’s research director Samuel Morin said at a press conference.

The heat helped drive a series of wildfires across France this summer, in particular a huge blaze in the southwest that burned for more than a month and blackened 20,000 hectares. 

Unusually, wildfires also broke out even in the normally cooler north of the country, and in total an area five times the size of Paris burned over the summer. 

Adding to the misery was a record drought that required widespread limits on water use, with July the driest month since 1961 – many areas still have water restrictions in place.

MAP: Where in France are there water restrictions and what do they mean?

Forecasters have also warned that autumn storms around the Mediterranean – a regular event as air temperatures cool – will be unusually intense this year because of the very high summer temperatures. A storm that hit the island of Corsica in mid August claimed six lives. 

“The summer we’ve just been through is a powerful call to order,” Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said on Monday, laying out her priorities for an “ecological planning” programme to guide France’s efforts against climate change.