Evening Update Friday 20th October 2023

Météo France has lifted its red alert for the Alpes-Maritimes department after this morning's violent storms and torrential rainfall - with nearly a month of rain falling in the space of just a few hours earlier today. The department has been on an orange alert since 10am, which will be lifted this evening, as Storm Aline gradually passes. All schools in the Alpes-Maritimes and Monaco were closed today and non-essential travel was banned this morning. Some of the worst damage was in the Vésubie, Tinée and Roya valleys, where several neighbourhoods were evacuated and more than 5,000 homes suffered power cuts, with another 500 homes in the Var also without power. 85 people were evacuated from the Douce France campsite near Marineland in Antibes, while a jogger and someone who was planning to go for a swim were rescued from the Promenade des Anglais in Nice early this morning. Some cellars in homes in Tende were flooded with up to 60cm of rainwater. The Maïssa bridge in Saint-Martin-Vésubie collapsed due to flooding, sweeping away two parked Lignes d’Azur buses. It was the same bridge that was destroyed and rebuilt following Storm Alex. However today's bad weather has not been as devastating as Storm Alex which caused widespread damage and loss of life in October 2020. The FR-Alert text message system worked as planned, with thousands of residents receiving an SMS on Thursday evening warning them of the bad weather.

In other local news, anti-Semitic graffiti has appeared in the corridors, classrooms and toilets at a secondary school in Cannes - prompting some students to choose to go home, fearing for their safety. The messages - including death threats against specific teachers - appeared on Wednesday evening at the Lycée Bristol. The discovery comes as the funeral was held yesterday for Dominique Bernard, the French teacher killed at a secondary school in Arras last Friday. An investigation is under way.

Meanwhile, another 14 French airports were targeted by hoax bomb alerts yesterday, for a second day running. Eight of them decided to evacuate the premises as a precaution: Montpellier, Nantes, Bordeaux, Béziers, Brest, Rennes, Carcassonne and Tarbes.

A school was evacuated in Grasse yesterday morning after students and teachers noticed a strong smell of gas. 500 students were told to leave the Jasmins college and assemble on the sports field. Firefighters, police and gas distributor ERDF were called out to the scene before the all-clear was given.

Record numbers of people in the Var are on the waiting list for access to social housing, according to new figures. The list is now more than 40,000 people long. That's twice as many applicants for social housing as there were 20 years ago - and there's been an especially sharp spike in applications since the pandemic. Var Habitat, one of the main organisations that manages social housing in the department, says the list is getting longer because people are staying in social housing for longer as they're priced out of buying their own property. Construction of new social housing across France in general is in decline. In the Var, 2,000 new housing units were built last year. A decade ago the figure was closer to 3,000.

A public consultation is under way over plans to build a vast new prison in Le Muy, in the Var. An 18-hectare plot of land has been identified for the new facility, which is expected to open in 2027. The consultation runs until the beginning of November.

Residents living near the Mougins motorway interchange have complained of noise pollution as Vinci Autoroutes carries out major roadworks. Several trees have been felled to make way for the improvement works and trucks frequently come and go from the construction site. The motorway is being widened from three to five lanes, with two lanes reserved for vehicles leaving the motorway for Cannes and Le Cannet. Residents want a new anti-noise barrier to be built as they fear the changes will bring increased traffic to the area.

It's been confirmed that Nice's tram line 3 will be extended from next summer to run all the way to Nice port, following the same route as line 2. Line 3 currently serves the west of the city, running from Saint-Isidore, along the Plaine du Var to Nice airport. Anyone wanting to head into the city centre has to change trams at Grand Arénas. By running direct to the port, it means there’ll be more trams through the city from east to west. Line 3 will run every seven minutes during the day, instead of every 13. The changes come into force on 1st July next year.

Meanwhile, getting from Monaco rail station to the upper parts of the principality has become a lot more difficult in recent days. The six main lifts taking passengers from the station up towards Monte-Carlo and Beausoleil are out of service for safety reasons. The lifts are out of use not because they've broken down - but as a safety precaution because of nearby construction work. The foundations are being laid for a new 14-storey apartment block on the Pont Sainte Dévote, immediately next to the lift shafts. It's not yet clear for how long the lifts will be out of use. Passengers wanting to reach the Monte-Carlo exit of the station can use the lifts for the station car park - but there's only two of them and long queues form during rush hours. The alternative is climbing 250 stairs, or leaving the station at the port exit and walking or taking the bus.

Cap 3000 shopping centre has signed an agreement to share its CCTV footage with the Saint-Laurent-du-Var municipal police to help fight crime. The centre will still have its own internal security team. But in the event of a major incident, police will have instant access to the cameras and will be able to use the footage for any potential investigations.

Meanwhile, Polygone Riviera shopping centre in Cagnes-sur-Mer has a new owner and is planning to bring some new stores to the Riviera.
French property company Frey Group has bought the shopping centre for €272 million. Opened in 2015, Polygone Riviera had until now been run by a consortium including Westfield, which owns several large shopping centres in the UK, Europe and the US. The new owner is planning to reposition the shopping complex and wants to bring in some more mass-market brands. Exact details aren't clear at this stage.

And Princess Grace hospital in Monaco has come up with an interesting incentive to encourage people to give blood - free food from a Michelin-starred chef. To coincide with Taste Week, the Semaine du Goût, local chef Joël Garault has been working in the hospital's kitchen this week serving up a range of delicious dishes to say thank you to blood donors. They were given a choice of three savoury options - such as avocado mousse with cream cheese or veal liver and endive - followed by a choice of three desserts, including orange honey and pistachio pancakes or panna cotta with caramelised melon marmalade. The dishes were specifically chosen to be rich in iron and vitamin C, to help donors replenish their red blood cells. Sadly the event is now over.

BUSINESS

Government borrowing in the UK in September was lower than most economists had expected. Borrowing - the difference between spending and tax income - was £14.3bn last month, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). This was £1.6bn less than a year earlier, but the sixth highest borrowing in September since monthly records began in 1993. Economists had predicted borrowing to be £18.3bn last month. Government debt was running at nearly £2.6 trillion, more than 2% higher than last year.

And Elon Musk has said his social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, will launch two new tiers of premium subscriptions. He said one is lower cost with all features, but no reduction in ads, and the other is more expensive, but has no ads. It comes as the firm started charging new users $1 in New Zealand and the Philippines for accessing the platform. Musk did not provide more details on the plans. New users who opt out of subscribing will only be able to take "read only" actions, such as reading posts, watching videos, and following accounts. Musk has long said that his solution for getting rid of bots and fake accounts on the social media platform is charging for the service. Since taking over the firm in October last year he has looked to incentivise users to pay for an enhanced service, which is now called X Premium, and tried to woo advertisers back to X with offers of discounts.

SPORT

Rugby Union - In this evening’s Rugby World Cup semi-final Argentina play New Zealand kick off is at 9pm French time at the Stade de France in Paris. Although both teams have experienced defeat already in the tournament, it is fair to say that they have timed their top form for the right time of the competition. Tomorrow in the other semi-final England play  South Africa. Kick off is at 9pm French time. 

Football - In the Premier league at the weekend, tomorrow Saturday 21st October – Liverpool are at home to Everton in the lunchtime game, kick off is at 1.30pm French time. With a 4pm kick off French time, Bournemouth play Wolves, Brentford are at home to Burnley, Manchester City face Brighton, Newcastle play Crystal Palace, Nottingham Forest are at home to Luton. With a 6.30pm kick off French time, Chelsea are at home to Arsenal and Sheffield United play Manchester United, kick off is at 9pm French time. On Sunday Aston Villa are at home to West Ham.

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