Six dead as 200km/h winds batter Corsica

Six people - including a teenage girl - died and dozens were injured after sudden and extremely violent storms hit the French island of Corsica on Thursday morning.

Six dead as 200km/h winds batter Corsica
Bystanders look on at boats thrown onto the beach of Sagone in Coggia after strong winds struck the French Mediterranean island of Corsica. Photo by PASCAL POCHARD-CASABIANCA / AFP

Much of France has been experiencing storms and flash-flooding this week as temperatures cool after the latest heatwave episode, but the must violent yet was the storm that struck the Mediterranean island of Corsica on Thursday.

Winds of 224km/h were recorded in the south of the island and at least five people have died – including a 13-year-old girl who was staying on one of the island’s campsites, a 46-year-old man whose bungalow was smashed by a falling tree and a 72-year-old woman who died when debris fell onto her vehicle.

Maritime authorities later said a fisherman had died near Girolata, and a female kayaker near Erbalunga, north of Bastia, while the Interior Ministry later said that a sixth person had also died, without providing details.

Twelve other people were treated for weather-related injuries, with two people listed as being in a serious condition.

“I was woken around 7:30 am by a very huge storm” that knocked out both electricity and mobile phone networks, Benjamin Roux, a 26-year-old tourist, told AFP.

He had been planning to go scuba diving, but instead helped the passengers of a boat who were sleeping aboard when it was suddenly thrown onto the shore by the choppy waves.

“They managed to get out without injuries, but they’re just devastated,” he told AFP.

Maritime authorities reported 60 to 70 sea rescue operations, mainly along the western coast that bore the brunt of the storm.

The storms have now moved off, according to Météo France which has lifted its orange weather warning for the island, but 45,000 homes remain without power.

Corsica, known as L’île de beauté, is one of France’s most popular holiday destinations and in August hotels, campsites and villas are generally full of tourists – both French and foreign.

Although storms on France’s Mediterranean coast are not unusual – especially at the end of the summer when the temperatures begin to fall – experts predict that this year the storms – known as épisodes cévénolwill be unusually intense because of the exceptionally high temperatures recorded over the Mediterranean. 

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France opens up first offshore windfarm – but will more follow?

President Emmanuel Macron inaugurated France’s first offshore windfarm off the coast of Saint-Nazaire on Thursday as he seeks to accelerate renewable energy supply and improve energy security.

France opens up first offshore windfarm - but will more follow?

The 80 turbines will enter full service by the end of the year, and Macron has previously set a goal of about 50 offshore windfarms “providing up to 40 gigawatts” in service by 2050.

Following the belated inauguration of the country’s first offshore windfarm, another at Fécamp is due to start generating power in 2023. Sites in Saint-Brieuc, Fécamp and Courseulles-sur-Mer are set to enter service in 2024.

But France has a long way to go to meet the President’s target, and to catch up with its European neighbours. Before the Saint-Nazaire wind farm (‘parc éolien’ – en français), France had only one floating offshore wind farm off the coast of Le Croisic.

At Thursday’s inauguration event, Macron was to set out the “main lines” of a bill to accelerate France’s renewable energy programme, which will be presented to the Council of Ministers on Monday, September 26th.

READ ALSO France generates electricity from offshore wind farm for the first time

There is no doubt that renewable energy production in France is accelerating. On top of the 80 offshore turbines at Saint-Nazaire, just under 9,000 onshore turbines are currently producing electricity in France – eight years ago, around half that number of land-based turbines were operational. 

The first turbines in France were only installed in the 1990s – by which time countries like Germany and Denmark already had large-scale operations in place. 

More turbines would be in operation now in France, but for the lengthy planning process and appeals against projects, which have delayed construction for several years.

Hauts-de-France and Grand-Est, account for 50 percent of the wind-produced power in France. Île-de-France, Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur, and Corsica lag behind the other regions.

READ MORE: Energy shortages: What’s the problem with France’s nuclear industry?

In 2020, wind produced just eight percent of its electricity from wind, behind hydroelectric stations, while nuclear power generated nearly 70 percent of the country’s electricity.

Wind power accounted for 20 percent of electricity generation in Germany and Spain, while the UK was at 30 percent in 2020, Portugal produced 40 percent, and Denmark’s windfarms met 60 percent of the country’s electricity needs.