2021-09-16 15:46:21 At Least 9 Drown Swimming Off the Coast of Southern France

At Least 9 Drown Swimming Off the Coast of Southern France

FRANCE — At least nine people were swept out to sea and drowned off the southern coast of France after high seas created dangerous swells that caught the swimmers off guard.

“This toll is dramatic,” said Eric Brocardi, a spokesman for the French National Federation of Firefighters, to Franceinfo radio on Thursday. Mr. Brocardi stated that the local authorities had anticipated rough seas, prompting advisories against, if not outright prohibitions, of swimming at certain beaches.

“Unfortunately, some people disobeyed the ban,” he explained.

Officials said the deaths, which occurred all on Wednesday, reflected the dangers of the Mediterranean Sea, which is generally calm but has treacherous underwater currents.

Every year, hundreds of migrants perish while attempting to cross the Mediterranean from Africa to Europe. According to the International Organization for Migration, nearly 1,300 people died attempting to cross the border in 2019.

According to French officials, the deaths of the swimmers on Wednesday also highlighted the shortcomings in communicating the risks of swimming, particularly when no lifeguards are on duty.

According to local French news reports, all but one of those who drowned were in their 60s and 70s. They died while swimming at various beaches in the southern French regions of Aude, Bouches-du-Rhône, and Hérault, which include major cities such as Marseille and Montpellier.

A video attached to a message posted on Twitter by firefighters from Hérault, where five people were killed, showed deceptively small rollers crashing into the shoreline on Wednesday.

The message stated that “choppy seas make water activities dangerous.” “Don’t go swimming.”

On Wednesday, the Aude and Bouches-du-Rhône departments were placed on yellow storm alert, while Hérault was placed on orange alert, and several beaches were marked with a red flag, indicating that swimming was prohibited.

“I don’t understand how people got into the water when the seas were rough,” Jordan Dartier, mayor of Vias, a town in Hérault where one person drowned, told French broadcaster LCI. “This is a historic day for our region.”

Several rescue officials have speculated that the warm weather enticed people to swim, and that the waves, while not appearing dangerous, concealed dangerous underwater currents.

“The water is warm, and you think you’re going to have fun, but you’re quickly pulled toward the open sea and the bottom, and you get exhausted trying to get back. This is what causes the drowning,” Aurélien Manenc, chief of the Hérault fire department, told French broadcaster TF1.

Some officials also claimed that a lack of lifeguards following the end of the summer vacation season had increased the danger to swimmers. Despite the fact that it is late in the year, many people have flocked to southern French beaches this September, drawn by the unusually warm weather.

“We will have to ask ourselves whether we should continue monitoring our beaches in September.” Patrick Vignal, a lawmaker from the Hérault region, told the French television channel BFMTV.

Mr. Vignal also questioned whether local authorities had provided enough warning to would-be swimmers.

According to French health officials, 250 fatal drownings were reported from June to August this year, a 5% decrease from the same period in 2018, when the figures were last collected.

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At Least 9 Drown Swimming Off the Coast of Southern France