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OFFBEAT

Hole-y smokes! Mysterious crater appears on French Riviera

Residents in the south of France have been left bamboozled after a 5-metre wide crater appeared on a beach in Nice.

Hole-y smokes! Mysterious crater appears on French Riviera
All photos: AFP

There's a mystery afoot in Nice and everyone seems to have a theory. 

Some say it's a volcano, some say it's a geyser, according to the local Nice Matin newspaper at the scene.

One passerby suggested the hole was made by a meteorite. 

What we do know is this: A hole that is five metres in diameter and 2 metres deep – and which is almost perfectly round – has showed up on the Lido beach in Nice, just off the famous Promenade des Anglais. 

The water inside it is salty, no surprise really considering the hole is just a few metres away from the sea. 

While locals have been wondering about the story behind the crater, authorities haven't wasted any time in cordoning off the area.

On Friday, they brought in a digger in an attempt to fill in the hole. 

The Mayor of Nice, Christian Estrosi, wasn't interested in the speculation, tweeting out that the hole was nothing but a “natural phenomenon that happens four times a year”. 

Experts told Nice Matin that the crater was nothing more than a shift in the layers of sand and beach pebbles, caused by the weight of the stones on the sand below. 

They pointed out similar occurrences in the same area in recent years.

In any case, the beach has been closed for the day while City Hall workers return the beach to its normal state. 

Meanwhile, residents are sure to be keeping an eye on the beach for the last weeks of winter in case of any more unusual phenomena. 

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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