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WEATHER

IN PICTURES: How floods and a bin strike left Marseille submerged in waste

Torrential rain hit the city of Marseille in the south of France on Sunday and Monday, just days after local waste collectors ended a week-long strike, leading to fears of "catastrophic" waste making its way to the ocean.

A man stands on a beach covered with cans following heavy rains and a strike of waste collectors in Marseille.
A man stands on a beach covered with cans following heavy rains and a strike of waste collectors in Marseille on October 5th. Photo: Nicolas TUCAT / AFP.

Marseille is located in the Bouches-du-Rhône département, which Météo France placed on red alert for heavy rain and flooding on Monday. Schools in the area shut and people were warned not to leave their homes as two months’ worth of rain fell in a single day in the Mediterranean city, after heavy rains had already caused flooding on Sunday night.

The situation was compounded by the fact that uncollected garbage was blocking storm drains in certain parts of the city – drains which would normally be cleared ahead of heavy rain – and making it more difficult for emergency services to intervene.

The city’s waste collectors had begun clearing the streets on Saturday after an agreement between unions and local authorities put an end to an eight-day strike over an increase to working hours.

But rain over the weekend made the monumental job even more difficult, and the result was that “rivers of rubbish” flowed through the city’s streets on Monday.

“Rubbish is everywhere. It’s a catastrophe,” biologist Isabelle Poitou, director of the MerTerre association, told AFP. “We’re expecting a strong mistral wind which will push the rubbish, which is currently making its way towards the sea, onto the beaches.”

“It’s vital to come and clear the rubbish from the beaches on Tuesday or Wednesday,” she added. “We need to act before the rubbish gets scattered in the sea at the first gust of wind.”

A woman collects waste on a beach after heavy rains and following a strike of waste collectors in Marseille.

A woman collects waste on a beach after heavy rains and following a strike of waste collectors in Marseille. Photo: Christophe SIMON / AFP.

The video below tweeted by BFMTV journalist Cédric Faiche shows the state of a beach in Marseille early on Tuesday morning. “It’s been cleaned several times but cans and different types of plastic continue to arrive…” Faiche wrote.

However, Faiche told BFM there are similar scenes every time there is heavy rain in Marseille, even if the strike has made the situation even worse.

Minister of the Sea Annick Girardin shared a video of the “sad scene” captured in Marseille on Sunday night. “Discussions between trade unions and the city must not make us forget what really matters: we are all responsible for our seas and our oceans!” she said.

“It’s unacceptable,” Christine Juste, deputy mayor in charge of the environment in Marseille told BFM on Tuesday, criticising the “lack of reactivity” in collecting leftover rubbish following the end of the strike on Friday.

“Why wait so long? In the 6th arrondissement, there has been no collection since the announcement that the strike was over,” she said.

IN PICTURES: See how the deluge has left parts of France’s Mediterranean coast submerged

The Aix-Marseille-Provence Metropolis intercommunal structure, rather than city hall, is in charge of rubbish collection in Marseille.

On Monday morning, the Metropolis dispatched 650 workers to clear away as much waste as possible ahead of the heaviest rainfall which was forecast for the afternoon.

On Monday evening, Marseille’s Mayor Benoît Payan told franceinfo that 3,000 tonnes of garbage were still yet to be collected in the city. “I asked the Prime Minister this evening to class the zone as a natural disaster,” he added.

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ENVIRONMENT

Massive hornet-trapping campaign begins in south west France

Across south west France trapping campaigns have begun in an attempt to control the numbers of dangerous Asian hornets.

Massive hornet-trapping campaign begins in south west France

Trapping campaigns are organised annually at this time of year, as the weather begins to get warmer and queens begin to emerge from hibernation.

And the Charente-Maritime town of Royan Atlantique, on France’s west coast, is leading the way, as the below video shows.

Experts say that now is the time to begin using the traps, as catching queen hornets in the process of building their nests will lead to far fewer insects later in the year. 

Some 2,000 traps are installed in and around Royan this year, including 300 that were distributed to householders in the week of Valentine’s Day. 

Once installed, the traps can capture several dozen insects at a time.

In order to capture a maximum of hornet queens, traps should be installed between mid-February and mid-May. Especially since during this period, these predators end up coming out of their hibernation.

It is believed Asian hornets arrived in France around 2004. They have now spread nationwide.

Although their venom is not more powerful than that of normal bees or wasps, they are known to be more aggressive towards humans, and their stings can cause anaphylactic shock in allergic people.

The hornets also damage beehives and kill bees, damaging honey stocks and destroying the native ecosystem.

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