Nine people drowned in the Mediterranean in separate incidents after venturing out to sea against the advice of authorities as storms raged in southern France.
Five of the deaths occurred in the Hérault.
Yesterday afternoon at 4:00 p.m., Hérault and seven other departments – Gard, Ardèche, Isère, Drôme, Savoie, Haute-Savoie and Ain – were under orange weather warning for thunderstorms, heavy rains and floods, Gard and the Hérault having been on this level of alert since the morning.
However, many people ventured into the sea despite advice to the contrary, including instructions from the Hérault fire and rescue services urging people to avoid swimming in the sea, where waves reached 1.5 to 2 m.
#Intervention|| The #Firefighters of the’# Herault are mobilized Municipality of Marseillan, Sérignan-Plage and @AgdeOfficiel for early drowning or drowning Rough seas make water sports dangerous ⚠️ Avoid swimming #Swell #Waves #InfoFlash pic.twitter.com/AfW5xoVTXW
– Firefighter 34 (@ SDIS34) September 15, 2021
Strong swell phenomenon on the coast of# Herault this day
Yesterday 5 people lost their lives and 6 rescue interventions took place
⚠️For your #security and that of the rescue forces ➡️Bathing prohibited❌
Be careful and follow the safety instructions pic.twitter.com/Le2a4pFqLz
– Prefect of Hérault (@ Prefet34) September 16, 2021
The choppy waters were caused by the low pressure system that caused the storms, whose strong winds created friction with the surface of the water, forming swells that grew in size with each successive gust.
“I cannot understand how these people were able to get into the water when the sea was so rough,” said the mayor of Vias (Hérault) Jordan Dartier. “It is a dramatic day for our region.
“People have decided to bathe, but what they do not see are the enormous underwater currents which will simultaneously drag them down and towards the sea,” Aurélien Manenc, lieutenant colonel, told TF1. firefighters from Hérault.
“The water is warm, they think it will be fun, but they are quickly pulled out to sea and under the water and they get exhausted trying to get back. This is what causes them to drown or start to drown.
Five people aged 64 to 73 died in Hérault after encountering difficulties at sea off the beaches of Grande-Motte, Agde, Marseillan, Sérignan and Vias. Seven people were also rescued.
The first victim was a 70-year-old woman who was rescued in the early afternoon but could not be resuscitated. She was followed by a 72-year-old Toulousain who died on the beach of Sérignan at the end of the afternoon.
In Grande-Motte, a man died after fainting in the water.
In Aude, two people drowned in Leucate, while in Bouches-du-Rhône the victims included a 58-year-old man in Cassis and a 71-year-old man in La Ciotat, who was pulled out of the water by a 13-year-old but could not be resuscitated.
Stormy weather is forecast in pockets of southern France this afternoon (September 16) and 31 departments in southeast and eastern France – as well as the Pyrénées-Atlantiques in the southwest – are under yellow warning for storms, heavy rains and floods.
This means that people need to be “aware” of the weather conditions and perhaps avoid engaging in outdoor activities that could be made more dangerous by the storm.
The French government has announced that it will declare a state of natural disaster related to this week’s storms next week, an important step for many insurance claims.
Météo-France will provide certified proof of a storm for insurance claims
Danger of hidden currents for swimmers at sea in southwest France
Drowning fears rise after Covid cuts swimming lessons in French schools