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Fourteen die as France's drowning death toll soars

Dan MacGuill · 5 Aug 2013, 08:51

Published: 05 Aug 2013 08:51 GMT+02:00

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A total of 14 people of all different ages, drowned in France over the weekend Friday, bringing death toll on French beaches, rivers and lakes to 89 since July 1st.

The list of tragedies in the country's waters lengthens with each passing day and the authorities under pressure to deal with the phenomenon. 

A woman in her 80s in Canet-en-Roussilon in south-western France could not be revived by her family after getting into difficulty while swimming at the Canet-sud beach on Sunday.

A 33-year-old man was found dead off the Païole beach in the southern city of Nice on Sunday afternoon, and according to local emergency services, could have drowned on Saturday.

A man in his 20s could not be revived after being taken to hospital from the pond at Achères, in Yvelines near Paris.

The victim had been enjoying a municipal festival called “Achères Plage,” where a 12-year-old child also drowned on July 19th.

Elsewhere, two men drowned in Vendée, western France on Sunday; a 56-year-old man drowned after diving in Corsica; a 62-year-old man drowned off the coast of Charente-Maritime; and a 67-year-old woman could not be revived after being rescued swimming in Cannes.

A man in his 20s drowned in the early hours of Saturday when he fell from a pedal-boat in Haute-Savoie after emerging from a nightclub with friends.

A man in his 30s, hospitalized since Thursday, died on Sunday in Bordeaux, after being rescued from a beach in Mont-de-Marsan, south-western France along with his friend, who died on Friday.

The weekend’s deaths means 89 people have drowned in France since July 1st, with 34 of those fatalities on beaches, according to official figures released on Sunday.

The Ministry of Interior renewed its appeal to the public to show prudence while swimming.

“The sea can be particularly dangerous,” Pierre-Henry Brandet, spokesman for Interior Minister Manuel Valls, was quoted as saying by French daily Le Parisien. 

“So, as sailors say, do not defy it,” he added.

Local authorities in some areas have begun giving small fines to swimmers who refuse to leave the water even when a red flag is raised on the shore, indicating dangerous conditions.

And it appears swimmers are putting their lives in danger by repeatedly ignoring the warnings.

 "I Just came back from Soulac sur Mer, even though red flags were flying - people ignored them and continued to swim in stormy seas," holidaymaker Karen Jones told The Local.

After seven men drowned off the Mediterranean coast in one day last week, local safety official Sebastien Royer told The Local: "It's very dangerous to ignore the rules. What happened on Sunday was rare. It was not normal for that to happen in one section of the coast. The winds and the currents created the rough seas.

Story continues below…

"Those kind of weather conditions are more common in winter but they can easily occur in summer.

"Holiday makers are more at risk because because they don't know the sea, like locals do. People who live here know it can be dangerous but often holidaymakers think it is completely safe to swim in the Mediterranean.

"Surfers had been issued with warnings, but they still want to go out looking for waves,” he added.

However France's police union Alliance says the blame for the deaths cannot just be laid at the feet of swimmers.

Alliance points to the fact the number of police lifeguards on France's beaches has been cut dramatically over the years from 720 in 2002 to 471 in 2013.

"The police lifeguards are the only ones with the authority to make people respect the rules of swimming in the sea," a statement from Alliance said.

Dan MacGuill (dan.macguill@thelocal.com)

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