Date: Mon, 11 Nov 2019 16:19:54 +0100 (MET)

Lyon, Nov 11, 2019 (AFP) - An unusually strong earthquake hit south-eastern France on Monday, injuring four people, one of them seriously, authorities said.   A physicist at a geophysics institute the IPGP said that quakes of this strength are rare in that region, but warned of possible aftershocks and said people should leave fragile buildings.   The quake, with a magnitude of 5.4, was felt in a vast area between the cities of Lyon and Montelimar which are about 150 kilometres (93 miles) apart, the national seismological office said.   "I was leaning against the oven in my mother's bakery when I felt the tremor," said Victoria Brielle, a resident in Privas, some 25 kilometres from the quake's epicentre.   "A customer said her sideboard had moved and all her crockery was broken,"  she said.

Another resident in the area, Didier Levy, who lives in a 15th century castle, told AFP that "chandeliers were still trembling" several minutes after the quake.   Levy, who said his dog starting barking even before humans felt the tremors, added: "I have never experienced anything like it, I could feel the trembling even though these wall are one metre thick."   One person was seriously hurt when some scaffolding collapsed, the regional prefect's office said.   Three other people in the neighbouring Ardeche region were slightly injured.

Quakes in this region are rarely higher than Magnitude 5, said Mustapha Meghraoui of the IPGP's office in Strasbourg.   "We can say that this is a rare one," he added. But he said there might be an aftershock of around 4.5.   "If people are in a fragile house, they would be better leaving it" for something more robust for a while, he said.   The scale of the damage suggested the quake happened at a depth of between five and 10 kilometres, he added. But they were working on a more accurate reading.
Date: Mon, 4 Nov 2019 13:15:32 +0100 (MET)

Bordeaux, Nov 4, 2019 (AFP) - A 71-year-old woman was found dead Monday after being engulfed by a landslide in the French city of Nice, as the south of the country counted the cost from a brutal storm.   Storm Amelie brought freak winds, downpours and monster waves to southern France over the weekend. The woman, 71, who died in her own back yard, was the only reported fatality.

The storm dropped trees on roads and railway tracks and ripped loose live electrical wires, leaving tens of thousands of people without power for hours on end, authorities said.   About 60 rescuers worked through the night in search of the woman, who was reported missing after a landslide buried her back garden as she was sweeping during a brief respite of heavy rains over Nice, said emergency services spokesman Eric Brocardi.   They moved more than 80 m3 of soil mixed with concrete blocks from a collapsed retaining wall before finding her body.

Sixteen residents of the same neighbourhood, where other landslides have since occurred, have been evacuated as a precaution.   Weather service Meteo France said winds as strong as 163 km/h (100 mph) were recorded in the southwest coastal departments of Gironde and Landes Sunday, and 121 km/h in Bordeaux.   Six people sustained minor injuries as Amelie pummelled the Atlantic coast.   Several trains were cancelled and several delayed for hours after about 50 trees came down on the lines, said rail operator SNCF.
Date: Thu, 24 Oct 2019 13:38:05 +0200 (METDST)

Paris, Oct 24, 2019 (AFP) - Three people have died after several days of heavy storms that sent rivers flooding over their banks across southern France, causing "significant damage," the interior minister said Thursday.   Rescue workers have carried out nearly 1,800 operations since Sunday, Christophe Castaner said in a statement, after eight departments were placed on high alert for flash floods.   He did not provide details on when or how the deaths occurred, but an interior ministry official said they were in the Herault, Gard and Pyrenees-Orientales departments.

Around 700 homes remain without power in Herault and Gard, and the flooding could halt train services across much of the area until at least November 4, the SNCF train operator said.   "This toll could have been higher," Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne said while inspecting the damage in Beziers, a city hit particularly hard.

Flooding also killed a man in north-eastern Spain this week, and five people were missing, officials said Wednesday.   Flooding and landslides forced the closure of nearly 50 roads and halted train services in the region, as well as forcing the diversion of 37 flights, Spanish authorities said.
Date: Thu, 24 Oct 2019 06:12:15 +0200 (METDST)

Lourdes, France, Oct 24, 2019 (AFP) - Pilgrims to the holy town of Lourdes in southern France, lulled into carelessness by the promise of heavenly protection, are increasingly falling victim to pickpockets, local authorities say.   Thefts have more than doubled as organised gangs turned their attention to the town, attracted by the easy pickings there.   "Many people think that when they arrive in Lourdes nothing can happen, leaving their handbags open wider than they would have in Paris," said Philippe Subercaze, a city councillor in charge of security.

"In Lourdes, they think the Virgin will protect them and that nothing will happen to them."   Lourdes is one of the most revered sites for the world's 1.2 billion Catholics because it is said to be where the Virgin Mary appeared to a peasant girl in a grotto in 1858.   The town, with a population of about 14,000, attracted more than 770,000 visitors last year. Most came from Italy, Spain, Britain and Ireland.   Local prosecutor Pierre Aurignac told AFP there has been a "statistical explosion" of pickpocketing incidents -- from 117 in the first nine months of last year to 274 so far in 2019.

"It is cash they are after."
Most of the thefts happened in the town centre in the shop-lined roads near the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes, an area surrounding a shrine.   The municipality has put up about 50 video cameras since last year, adding to those the Sanctuary itself has installed.   "These are very organised professionals," Subercaze said of the pickpockets. "They arrive in waves and change all the time. As soon as one is identified or arrested, they are replaced. It is a game of cat and mouse."   Slowly but surely, the pilgrims are wising up.   "A couple had their things stolen a few days ago, so now I take more care," said Anna Maria, who came to Lourdes from Naples, Italy.   "I keep my bag pressed close to my body."
Date: Sun, 20 Oct 2019 21:29:49 +0200 (METDST)

Paris, Oct 20, 2019 (AFP) - French rail services ground to a halt in parts of the country Sunday as workers walked off the job for a third day in a dispute over train staffing levels, stranding holiday travellers.   Services in the Paris suburbs, the northeastern Champagne-Ardenne region and the southern Occitanie region, which includes Toulouse and Montpellier, were particularly affected.   The state railway company SNCF said most services would return to normal on Monday.

The industrial action began on Friday after a train in north-eastern France slammed into a truck at a level crossing, injuring 11 people.  The train driver was himself among those hurt but being the sole employee of state railway company SNCF on board had to help take care of passengers.   Unions said the incident highlighted understaffing on trains, notably the absence of ticket inspectors on some lines.

Since Friday, staff have been exercising their "right to withdraw" their labour -- a clause that allows workers to walk off the job in case of "clear and present danger to their life or health".   SNCF's management has accused the workers of abusing that right on a busy weekend for train travel, at the start of the mid-autumn school holidays.   It argues that some train lines have not had ticket inspectors for decades.
More ...