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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Moules-frites in danger: Spider crabs wreak havoc on French mussel population

Warming sea temperatures are bringing more spider crabs to France's coastline, which could spell disaster for the French mussel industry.

Moules-frites in danger: Spider crabs wreak havoc on French mussel population

You may not be able to see it from land, but underwater, an invasive species of spider crabs are ravaging the mussel population on the Western coast of France.

In Normandy and Brittany, mussel farmers are struggling to control the expanding spider crab population – which normally migrates onward, but has stayed put on France’s coasts.

Experts believe the crabs, who feast on mussels and all manner of shellfish, have not continued in their migration due to warming water temperatures, as a result of the climate crisis.

This has left French mussel farmers worried that if the crab population is not controlled, then mussel production could end in the region within a decade. 

Some mussel farmers, like David Dubosco, have lost a significant amount of mussels in just the last year. Dubosco told TF1 that in 2022 he lost at least 150 tonnes.

(You can listen to The Local France team discuss the future of moules-frites in our new podcast episode below. Just press play or download it here for later.)

Dubosco is not alone in his experience. According to reporting by TF1, production across the board will be lower this year 2022, which means that the number of mussels imported from other countries will likely increase, a decision that will not be popular with French consumers who prefer homegrown mussels to make the classic moules-frites.

The proliferation of the spider crabs has been an ongoing problem for the last six years, but due to warming waters, more and more have stayed in French waters.

The crabs do not have many predators besides humans – as they are edible, but the supply has begun to outweigh demand. Additionally, the crabs have grown so big that traditional cages used to trap them are no longer effective, according to Actu France.

On September 21st, over 80 mussel producers staged a demonstration in front of the Manche préfecture in Saint-Lô to demand further measures against this invasive species.

“We have seen the proliferation of spider crabs and our alerts have gone unheeded by the administrative authorities. The species comes to feed on our stocks,” said Vincent Godefroy, head of the “Group of mussel farmers on bouchot” (Groupement des mytiliculteurs sur bouchot) to Actu France. 

In response, the Manche prefecture met with six representatives from the group, eventually publishing a a statement saying it would allow “for the experimentation of new measures” to combat the crabs, which would include dragging them out to sea.

Additionally, government actors and mussel farmers will work together this autumn to conduct a study on the economic value of spider crabs with goals of building up a new industry. The assessment will be made in November.