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Caution urged after a weekend of drownings in France

Holiday makers have been urged to be careful near the beach.
Holiday makers have been urged to be careful near the beach. DR

As holiday makers flock to the beach and swimming pools to escape the summer heat, French authorities have urged people to be careful in the water after 15 people drowned over the weekend.

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A man in his 30s drowned on Sunday at an outdoor leisure centre at Torcy, east of Paris.

A police source said it appears the man did not know how to swim.

Also on Sunday, two men, one in his 50s, drowned in the Vendée department on the Atlantic coast in northwestern France. A 67-year old woman and a 33-year old man drowned on beaches at Cannes and Nice respectively, while another man in his 30s died in hospital on Sunday after being rescued from a beach at the Landes department in southwestern France.

So far, 91 people have drowned since the beginning of July, 37 of them on the coast.

The Interior Minister, Manuel Valls, reiterated his call for “everybody’s greatest caution and sense of responsibility”.

In the Hérault department on the Mediterranean coast, seven people died on 28 July when they were swept away by a large wave, even though lifesavers had raised a red warning flag banning people from swimming.

Local police suggested raising fines for people caught swimming while such warning flags are in place.

“You need to choose swimming spots that are under surveillance when the flags are raised,” said Laurent Sagnimorte, the head of the national society for sea rescue for three communes in the Hérault department. He added that 80 percent of drownings happen outside the flagged zones.

In 2012, 497 people drowned between 1st June and 30 September.

A recent survey also found one in five French people don’t know how to swim.

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