France

Marseille hit by a tide of rising trash as rains lash the Mediterranean coast

This photograph taken on October 5, 2021 in Marseille, southern France, shows a beach covered with cans and waste after heavy rains dispersed waste accumulated due to a strike of garbage collectors.
This photograph taken on October 5, 2021 in Marseille, southern France, shows a beach covered with cans and waste after heavy rains dispersed waste accumulated due to a strike of garbage collectors. © AFP/Nicolas Tucat

Violent storms hit the city of Marseille in the south of France over the weekend. Tons of rubbish were washed into the Mediterranean by the heavy rains. Dozens of volunteers started collecting the waste on Tuesday morning.

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The inhabitants of the city of Marseille were stunned  yesterday when thousands of pieces of rubbish piled up on the coast: cans, bottles, pieces of plastic washed up by the sea and scattered over a hundred metres of beach.

" The rubbish is everywhere. It’s a catastrophe," biologist Isabelle Poitou, director of the MerTerre association, told French news agency AFP.

"We’re expecting a strong mistral wind which will push the rubbish, which is currently making its way towards the sea, onto the beaches."

"It’s vital to come and clear the rubbish from the beaches on Tuesday or Wednesday," she added. "We need to act before the rubbish gets scattered in the sea at the first gust of wind."

Some Marseillais helped pick up the rubbish piled up on the beach. "It hurts my heart, all the Marseillais should be there. They all took a bath this summer," said a resident..

The phenomenon is not isolated to the city. After the torrential rains, the waters carried the waste to the sea. The garbage collectors' strike, which lasted nearly 10 days, also seems to have aggravated the situation.

"This happens often in Marseille. Every year, around the same time, we have trash washing up on the beach because of the rain, but this time there was also the rubbish-collector strike," Isabelle Poitou added.

All day long on 5th of October, a dozen marine firemen were out at sea. They collected more than 200 litres of waste.

Marseille’s Deputy Mayor Christine Juste spoke of "scenes of horror", with some city officials blaming the disaster on the previous administration.

Heavy rains also flooded Aix-en-Provence where rescuers had to pluck people to safety as the floods turned backyards into small lakes.

For local environmentalists, the impact of this pollution will be felt for months. "In the coming weeks, the sea will vomit all this waste onto the beach," explains Eric Akopian, president of the Clean my Calanques association.

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