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WEATHER

Three dead and one missing as Storm Miguel strikes western France

Three people have died and one is missing as Storm Miguel struck western France on Friday.

Three dead and one missing as Storm Miguel strikes western France
The lifeboat shortly before it capsized. Photo: AFP

The storm – which hit France this morning after travelling through Spain overnight – has brought winds of 120 km/h to the western part of he country.

Locals officials in the Vendee – just north of La Rochelle – have reported that three people are dead and one is missing after a lifeboat capsized.

The lifeboat from the French rescue organisation Société nationale de sauvetage en mer (SNSM) had been going to the aid of fishing boat which got into difficulty in strong winds and rough seas off the beach of Tanchet aux Sables-d'Olonne.

The lifeboat in heavy seas. Photo: AFP

“In late morning, a boat from the SNSM capsized 800 metres from the coast around the Sables d'Olonne with seven people on board,” the local prosecutor's offices said in a statement sent to AFP.

Three of them died while four managed to swim to shore, the statement added.

Three helicopters and around 60 firefighters were attempting to find the bodies of the rescuers near the site of the accident about 60 km north of La Rochelle.

The team had been attempting to help a fishing boat which was struggling in the giant swell caused by storm Miguel.

Photos from the scene show waves crashing over the front of the small rescue boat as it headed out.

After capsizing, it ended up upside down on the rocky shore.

The captain of the fishing boat is also missing. 

 

 

“So far we haven't been able to find the fishing boat. We've found fragments of the boat and an empty lifeboat,” the regional maritime authority told AFP.

It said the rough sea conditions were at level five of the nine on the Douglas scale, indicating waves of up to four metres (13 feet) high.

Yannick Moreau, the mayor of Les Sables d'Olonne, said it was “incomprehensible that any boat went out on a day like today.”

The SNSM gets funding from the state but is a nonprofit organisation run by around 8,000 volunteers.

“The SNSM boat at Les Sables is a crew of professionals, sailors who know the ocean, know the conditions,” Moreau said, adding that his town was “in shock.”

 

 

Storm Miguel has led the French weather service to put large areas of the Atlantic coast on alert for high winds and heavy rain.

As the storm continues to batter the western coast, people have been warned to stay away from the beaches and avoid going out in boats.A total of 8 departments are currently on orange alert – the second highest warning.

The departments affected are Charente-Maritime, Indre, Indre-et-Loire, Loire-Atlantique, Maine-et-Loire, Deux-Sèvres, Vendée and Vienne. 

 

People in these areas are warned to take precautions due to the risk of dangerous weather conditions, with the warnings expected to remain in place until Saturday at 6am.

The storm is expected to move north throughout Friday towards Brittany, before heading out to sea overnight.

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CLIMATE CRISIS

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.

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