Evening Update Friday 31st March 2023

An Easyjet flight from Nice to Paris had to make an emergency landing this morning after pilots reported smoke emerging from a device in the cockpit. The plane was diverted to Lyon airport, where firefighters were on stand-by as it touched down. Everyone aboard safely disembarked and no was injured. Passengers were able to complete their journey to Paris later in the morning on a replacement aircraft.

A former local newspaper journalist accused of throwing a stone through a window of Eric Ciotti's office in Nice has had his trial adjourned until September. Ciotti, the local MP and Les Republicains leader, had his office on the port vandalised in the early hours of 19 March. The 31-year-old defendant was an accredited journalist until last year and now writes for an alternative information website. He had been summoned to appear in court immediately after his arrest - but his lawyer successfully pleaded for the case to be delayed to allow time to prepare his defence. In the meantime, pending the trial, the suspect will have to report to a local police station once a week.

A decree in Monaco requiring shops, businesses and public buildings to turn down their lights at night remains in place for another month, until the end of April. The facades of buildings, shop windows and office premises are required to limit their use of light between 11pm and 6am. In theory, businesses can be fined several thousand euros if they're found to be wasting energy overnight.

Residents in Bagnols-en-Forêt, in the Var, were ordered to stay inside their homes yesterday afternoon with their doors and windows closed - after a white phosphorous shell was discovered in the village. The shell, which had been sitting idle for about 80 years, was found near a water treatment plant and had begun to let off white smoke. Phosphorus shells were widely used in both world wars - and this one is believed to have dated from World War II. Mine-clearing experts from Marseille were called in. One person was taken to hospital as a precaution after breathing in fumes. The security perimeter was lifted a few hours later.

The body has been found of a trainee pilot who's believed to have stolen a light aircraft from La Flayosc aerodrome in the Var - and has been missing for more than a month. The victim is believed to have been a 46-year-old man who was learning to fly but reportedly only had a few hours of flight training. The stolen microlight took off from La Flayosc one night in mid-February, with very little fuel, and disappeared from radar screens less than half an hour later. Military personnel had flown over the suspected crash site for several days after the plane's disappearance, before the search was called off. An appeal by gendarmes for witnesses had also resulted in nothing. Residents in Taradeau, in the Var, found the small yellow-and-white aircraft this week, with a body on board.

Firefighters have been hard at work trying to control another forest fire in Briançonnet, in the same area that was badly damaged by another fire just two weeks ago. The fire in Briançonnet earlier this month destroyed 30 hectares of woodland and required 140 firefighters to put out.A helicopter-borne specialist intervention unit was called out on Thursday morning to an inaccessible area where fire had broken out again. A dozen firefighters were on site yesterday, with this latest fire covering an area of about 5,000 square metres. It's only the end of March and, already, 108 hectares of land have gone up in flames around the Alpes-Maritimes due to early forest fires this year. Firefighters have been called out to 35 separate incidents since January, with a water deficit, dry shrubland and strong winds contributing to the problem.

A 46-year-old Spanish man has been jailed for three and a half years and banned from French territory for five years for drug-trafficking. The man was caught by customs officers in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin with almost 700 kilos of cannabis resin in the back of his truck. His vehicle has been confiscated and the court in Nice also ordered him to pay a customs fine of €1.3 million, the estimated value of the drugs he was carrying.

Two tunnels in the hills above Nice are to be closed for repair works until next year. The Alpes-Maritimes department has begun work on the Mescla and Reveston tunnels, along the bank of the Var river, near Levens. The tunnels will be closed to traffic, with a diversion in place along the Route de Grenoble, except during 23 weekends in peak tourist periods. The €20 million of work is necessary to bring the two tunnels up-to-date with the latest safety regulations, following the Mont-Blanc fire back in 1999. More emergency exits and refuges will be built and firefighting equipment modernised, as well as the installation of new electrical and videosurveillance equipment.

Gendarmes along the Gulf of Saint-Tropez are planning more patrols and to be more visible this summer, after a reported 10% rise in crime in the area last year. The area's four gendarmerie units will carry out more daytime and night-time patrols as the peak tourist season approaches. Extra attention will also be paid to driving offences, including drink-driving.

The majority of Antibes' holiday campsites are opening their doors to the public for a new season starting this weekend. Campsite operators on the Plaine de la Brague are hoping for a successful summer season, after the trauma of the 2015 floods, the Covid pandemic and now the ongoing cost-of-living crisis. French and Italian motorhome owners are the main clientele, and while early reservations remain slow, the trend since coronavirus struck has been for bookings to come in at the last minute.

France’s National Assembly has adopted the first reading of a bill Thursday that regulates the commercial practices of influencers on social media networks.  The bill was adopted after all 49 deputies attending the session voted “yes.” The bill, which legally defines the commercial practices of social media influencers, also prohibits the promotion of alcohol and aesthetic operations by influencers. In order for the bill to be finally approved, it must also be passed by the Senate.

And Air France has named its newest aircraft after Grasse. The airline's 20th Airbus A220-300 came off the assembly line in Quebec yesterday and has been named after the Riviera city of perfume. It'll make regular flights from Paris Charles de Gaulle airport. Air France has been gradually reviving the tradition of naming aircraft after French cities. It already has planes named after Nice, Cannes, Menton, Bandol and Saint-Tropez.

BUSINESS

The UK economy performed better than previously estimated at the end of last year, revised official figures show. It was previously thought the economy had not grown in the last three months of 2022, but new Office for National Statistics data shows it grew by 0.1%. The latest figures confirm that the UK economy avoided falling into recession at the end of 2022. The ONS said telecommunications, construction and manufacturing had all fared better than initially thought. It also said household finances had been helped by the government's energy bill support scheme. The main driver of the economy in the UK - the services sector - was boosted by a sizeable jump for travel agents.

Japan's government says it plans to put restrictions on some computer chip-making exports, following similar moves by the US and the Netherlands. The measures will apply to 23 types of semiconductor manufacturing equipment. Semiconductors, which power everything from mobile phones to military hardware, are at the centre of a bitter dispute between the US and China.

Paris airport bosses have revealed their plan to cut queues at busy periods, including allowing non-EU travellers to use the automated passport gates. With one eye on the upcoming 2024 Olympics, Aéroports de Paris, which controls Paris Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports, has unveiled a plan to cut waiting times for travellers departing and arriving from the French capital - especially during peak periods like the summer holidays and the Olympics next year.

SPORT

Formula One - Fernando Alonso set the early pace in second practice at the Australian Grand Prix before rain affected the majority of the session. The Aston Martin driver was 0.445 seconds quicker than Ferrari's Charles Leclerc. Red Bull's Max Verstappen was third fastest, 0.615secs off the pace. Verstappen topped the first session, run in dry conditions, ahead of Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton. Hamilton was only 13th in the second, with team-mate George Russell fourth. Hamilton's dry-weather running was curtailed by a decision to pit for set-up changes in the front suspension. Verstappen also appeared to be unhappy with his car balance in the dry, the world champion running wide over the grass at the first chicane before setting his fastest time. It was the continuation of a scrappy day for Verstappen, who leads the world championship by one point from team-mate Sergio Perez after the first two races of the season.

Cricket - Sri Lanka will have to go through a qualifying stage to reach October's 50-over World Cup after a six-wicket defeat by New Zealand in Hamilton. The 1996 champions, who have featured in every 50-over World Cup, are now unable to qualify automatically. They were bowled out for 157 after opting to bat, with Pathum Nissanka making 57 and Dasun Shanaka 31. New Zealand were 59-4 but Will Young (86*) and Henry Nicholls (40*) shared an unbroken 100 to see the hosts home.

A South African parole board is to consider whether former Paralympics star and convicted murderer Oscar Pistorius can be released from jail. He has so far served half of his 13-year sentence for murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in 2013. If he is granted parole, Pistorius, now aged 36, could be freed within a matter of days. However, Ms Steenkamp's mother, June, is widely expected to oppose parole during Friday's hearing. The former amputee sprinter is currently in a low-security prison in rolling fields just outside the city of Pretoria. He recently met Barry Steenkamp, Reeva's father, as part of a mandatory process known as "victim-offender dialogue". But Mrs Steenkamp has made public her frustration that the six-time Paralympic gold medallist - while expressing deep remorse for killing his girlfriend on Valentine's Day in 2013 - continues to maintain he shot her by mistake, believing she was a robber.

Paris-Saint-Germain striker Kylian Mbappé has been named the best-paid French footballer in an annual ranking by sports newspaper L'Equipe and France Bleu. Mbappé is estimated to be earning €6 million gross per month. The top three in Ligue 1 is dominated by PSG players, with Mbappé followed by Neymar on €3.6 million per month and Lionel Messi on €3.3 million. Here on the Riviera, OGC Nice's best-paid players are Nicolas Pépé and Gaëtan Laborde on €300,000 gross per month each.

It's the return of Premier League action this weekend after the international break. On Saturday, Manchester City host Liverpool with a 1.30 kick-off French time. Mid-afternoon sees top-of-the-league Arsenal play Leeds United, Bournemouth take on Fulham and Brighton and Hove Albion meet Brentford. Leicester City are away at Crystal Palace and Nottingham Forest play Wolverhampton Wanderers. Finally at 6.30 French time, it's Chelsea vs Aston Villa. On Sunday, Southampton are away at West Ham United and Newcastle United play Manchester United.

In Ligue 1 this weekend locally, Nice are away at Angers on Sunday afternoon, and Monaco play Strasbourg at the Stade Louis II.
 

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