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Food sales banned from 100 communes in northern France after chemical factory blaze

The sale of crops or animal products from 100 districts around Rouen has been banned over pollution fears after the massive blaze at a toxic chemical factory.

Food sales banned from 100 communes in northern France after chemical factory blaze
The wreckage of the Lubrizol factory in Rouen. Photo: AFP

Soot spewed out by the blaze over some agricultural areas was “liable to present a public health risk that requires us to take immediate measures on a precautionary basis”, the regional administration said.

It added in decrees published on Sunday that in the absence of food safety guarantees from producers, anything likely to have been exposed to contamination would have to be destroyed.


Drone footage taken by local fire crews of the blazing factory. Photo: AFP/SDIS

Around 100 districts in the area surrounding Rouen are expected to have been affected.

The fire broke out in the early hours of Thursday morning after residents were woken by a series of explosions.

The cloud of thick black smoke spewing out of the site of the Lubrizol factory reached as far as Belgium and the Netherlands, with soot deposits found in both countries, according to the Centre de crise de Wallonie (CRC-W).

 

On Friday, France's health minister Agnes Buzyn said she could not guarantee there was no risk to the public from the pollution caused by the fire.

After battling the flames for around 24 hours, fire crews managed to extinguish it on Friday morning, but local complained of a noxious smell hanging over the town, causing headaches and nausea.

Police union Alternative Police say that several officers who were on duty in the area on Thursday and Friday have now been placed on sick leave with nausea, headaches and dizziness. The union is calling for a medical evaluation of all of the 150 officers who were on duty during the fire.

Schools in Rouen and 13 surrounding communes were closed on Thursday and remained closed on a Friday as a massive clean-up operation began to rid the town of the soot that had settled on outdoor areas.


The cause of the blaze is still under investigation. Photo: AFP

The huge blaze in a storage facility of the factory owned by Lubrizol, a manufacturer of industrial lubricants and fuel additives owned by the billionaire American investor Warren Buffett.

Lubrizol said the fire damaged a storage facility, a drumming warehouse and an administrative building.

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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Snobs, beaches and drunks – 5 things this joke map teaches us about France

A popular joke 'map' of France has once again been widely shared on social media, sparking endless jokes at the expense of certain regions of France.

Snobs, beaches and drunks - 5 things this joke map teaches us about France
Image AFP/cartesfrance.fr
But while the map – created by cartesfrance.fr – is clearly intended to be comic, it teaches us some important points about France’s regional divides, local stereotypes and in-jokes.
 

 
 
 
Here are some of the key points.
 
1. Everyone hates Parisians
 
The map is purportedly France as seen through the eyes of Parisians, and contains a series of snobbish and rude generalisations about every part of France that is not maison (home) in the capital and its surroundings. The great majority of the country is labelled simply as paysans (peasants).
 
The general stereotype about Parisians is that they are snobs, rudely judging the rest of the country which they regard as backwards and full of ploucs (yokels) apart from small areas which make nice holiday destinations.
 
Like all sweeping generalisations, this is true of some people and very much not of others, but one of the few things that can unite people from all areas of France is how much they hate les parigots têtes de veaux (a colloquialism that very roughly translates as ‘asshole Parisians’)
 
 
2. Staycations rule
 
Even before Covid-related travel restrictions, holidaying within France was the norm for many French people.
 
As the map shows, Parisians regard the southern and western coastlines as simply plages (beaches) which they decamp to for at least a month in July or August. In the height of summer French cities tend to empty out (apart from tourists) as locals head to the seaside or the countryside.
 
 
In winter the Pyrenees and Alps are popular ski destinations.
 
3. Northerners like a drink
 
There is a very widespread stereotype, although not really backed up by evidence, that the people of Normandy, Brittany and the Nord area like a drink or two. Many suggest this is to cope with the weather, which does tend to be rainier than the rest of France (although has plenty of sunshine too).
 
 
Official health data doesn’t really back this up, as none of these areas show a significantly greater than average rate of daily drinkers, although Nord does hold the sad record for the highest rate of people dying from alcohol-related liver disease.
 
What’s certainly true is that Brittany and Normandy are cider country, with delicious locally-produced ciders on sale everywhere, well worth a try if you are visiting.
 
 
4. Poverty
 
The map labels the north eastern corner of France as simply pauvres – the poor.
 
The north east of the country was once France’s industrial and coal-mining heartland, and as traditional industries have declined there are indeed pockets of extreme poverty and high unemployment. The novel The End of Eddy, telling the story of novelist Edouard Louis’ childhood in a struggling small town near Amiens, lays out the social problems of such areas in stark detail.
 
However poverty is not just confined to one corner of France and the département that records the highest levels of deprivation is actually Seine-Saint-Denis in the Paris suburbs.
 
5. Southern prejudice
 
According to the map, those from the south are either branleurs (slackers) or menteurs (liars). 
 
This isn’t true, obviously, there are many lovely, hard-working and truthful people in southern France, but the persistent stereotype is that they are lazy – maybe because it’s too hot to do much work – and slightly shifty.
 
Even people who aren’t actually rude about southerners can be pretty patronising, as shown when south west native Jean Castex became the prime minister in summer 2020. 
 
Castex has a noticeable south west accent which sparked much comment from the Paris-based media and political classes, with comments ranging from the patronising – “I love his accent, I feel like I’m on holiday” – to the very patronising – “that accent is a bit rugby” (a reference to the fact that TV rugby commentators often come from France’s rugby heartlands in the south west).
 
 
In his first year as PM, Castex has undertaken a dizzying schedule of appointments around the four corners of France, so hopefully the lazy myth can now be put to bed.
 
And anyone tempted to take the piss out of his accent – glottophobie (accent prejudice) is now a crime in France.
 
For more maps that reflect France, head to cartesfrance.fr
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