Evening Update Monday 10th April 2023

Rescue operations have continued today after a four-storey apartment building collapsed in Marseille at the weekend, in an apparent explosion. More than 100 firefighters have been combing through the rubble, with the help of search dogs, drones and thermal imaging technology. Two bodies were found this morning, bringing the total to four. The search continues for four missing people. But the exact number of victims remains unclear. It's possible, for example, that the building's residents had guests staying over. One person who was feared to be inside the building at the time of its collapse has come forward and told relatives they are alive and well. Firefighters were called out shortly after midnight on Sunday to the apartment block in Marseille’s 5th arrondissement after a large explosion was heard. Five people in neighbouring buildings were slightly injured. 40 nearby properties have been evacuated as a precaution, with 160 people put up in emergency accommodation. Marseille city officials have opened a reception centre for anyone who does not have news from a loved one. French interior minister Gérald Darmanin attended the scene yesterday.

Meanwhile, four people were evacuated from their homes in the Old Port of Marseille after a fire broke out on the top floor of a six-storey apartment building. The fire is believed to have begun in the building's roof. A 15-square-metre room was completely destroyed. No one was injured.

About 100 firefighters spent Sunday evening trying to control a forest fire in Vinon-sur-Verdon in the Var. The fire destroyed almost 10 hectares of land. Two firefighters were injured - one of whom needed to be taken to hospital. 

Monaco and France have reached an agreement on cross-border rides in taxis and private-hire cars. Since the new year, French taxis had only been allowed to bring a passenger to Monaco - they couldn't pick one up in the principality, and had to cross back into France empty. The same applied to Monegasque taxis bringing a passenger over the border into France. Last month, Monaco announced a change to the rules, saying it would sell windscreen stickers allowing 320 French taxis and private-hire cars to pick up passengers in the principality. Monaco had asked the Alpes-Maritimes department to reciprocate the measure, particularly at the reserved taxi rank at Nice Airport. An agreement has now been reached and a limited number of Monegasque taxis will now be allowed to pick up a passenger at the airport and bring them to Monaco. The deal will be implemented in the coming days and will apply all-year round.

Villeneuve-Loubet has decided not to renew the permits for several seaside cafes and restaurants to occupy parts of the beach - because of worries about erosion. Five cafes and restaurants are affected along three stretches of beach - Vaugrenier, Maurettes and Batterie - between the border with Antibes and the Marina Baie des Anges. The municipal councillor in charge of seaside activities said the town couldn't justify allowing catering venues to occupy the beach when the coastline is shrinking at a rate of about 40 centimetres each year. The current permits expire at the end of this year. Restaurants had hoped for a 12-year renewal, but none will be granted. Other beach cafes further along the coast, around the port of Villeneuve-Loubet, will still be allowed to occupy the beach, as the situation there is more stable.

It's closing time for the Riviera's ski resorts, with just a few still open and time running out for anyone looking for a last-minute trip to the pistes. Gréolières, La Colmiane and Valberg have already closed. Ski resorts in the Tinée valley had initially planned to close on 23rd April - but the date has now been brought forward and today was the last day. Isola 2000 expects to stay open for another two weeks, with several dozen pistes open and currently between 50 and 75 centimetres of snow. Meanwhile, Auron ski resort has announced a record winter season, with turnover up 30% at more than €6 million. The figure beats the previous record set in 2014.

And a mayor in the Var has been awarded an honour by the French state for his handling of the coronavirus crisis. Didier Brémond, the mayor of Brignoles, was made a Knight of the National Order of Merit at a low-key ceremony in the town last week. During the height of the pandemic, Brignoles created a Covid resistance fund for struggling businesses and set up a regular newsletter to keep residents informed. The town also organised concerts in nursing homes with local musicians and supplied tablets to care-home residents to stay in touch with their family. It was quick to supply protective visors to school teachers and caregivers. Brignoles also ran a publicity campaign to encourage people to support their local cafes and restaurants once they were allowed to reopen. The mayor, who lost his mother to Covid in October 2020, dedicated his award to all the municipal workers who helped along the way.

BUSINESS

Elon Musk's electric car company Tesla says it is expanding in China as it builds a new factory to make its large-scale batteries. The plant in Shanghai will be able to produce 10,000 of its "Megapack" energy storage units a year, the firm says. A Megapack is a very large battery that can be used to help stabilise energy grids and prevent power outages. Tesla already has Megapack plant in California, which also produces 10,000 of the units each year. Mr Musk said on Twitter that the new Chinese plant will be in addition to Tesla's US factory.

Wizz Air was the worst major airline for flight delays from UK airports for the second year in a row, new figures show. The Hungarian carrier's UK departures were an average of 46 minutes and six seconds behind schedule in 2022. It is based on analysis of Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) data by the PA news agency. That was more than three times longer than the previous year, when it was also ranked last for punctuality. The analysis took into account all scheduled and chartered departures from UK airports by airlines with more than 2,500 flights. Cancelled flights were not included. Norwegian Air Shuttle recorded the best performance with an average delay of just 13 minutes and 42 seconds.

SPORT

One of the assistant referees in Liverpool's Premier League match against Arsenal has been accused of elbowing Andy Robertson during the half-time interval. Constantine Hatzidakis was approached by Robertson as the half-time whistle blew, with the Liverpool defender insisting the assistant referee had struck him in the throat seconds later. Robertson was given a yellow card by referee Paul Tierney for his role in the involvement, while Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson approached the officials to discuss the incident. The Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) body, which governs referees in English football, has said it is investigating the incident, as is the Football Association.

In local football this weekend, OGC Nice suffered a 2-0 defeat to Paris Saint Germain at the Allianz Riviera. AS Monaco managed a 2-2 draw away to Nantes.

The application process for volunteers for the 2024 Games is now open - and organisers say there is no requirement for helpers to be able to speak French. There are three main criteria for volunteers; you must be aged 18 or over, you must speak either English or French (or both) and you must be available for a minimum of 10 days during the Olympics or Paralympics in the summer of 2024. Volunteers will mostly be helping with spectators and the visitor experience with tasks including greeting and directing spectators and media. You'll find more details at https://www.paris2024.org/en/volunteers/

MONTE CARLO MASTERS TENNIS

Today's the first round of the 116th edition of the Rolex Monte Carlo Masters. On the Court des Princes this lunchtime, Britain's Cameron Norrie was defeated by Argentine Francisco Cerundolo, 6-3 6-4. France's Benjamin Bonzi secured his place in the second round with a 6-1 7-5 win over Spain's Bernabe Zapata Mirrales. And on the Court Rainier III, Stan Wawrinka defeated the Netherlands' Tallon Griekspoor 7-5 6-3 6-4. The top eight seeds, including Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev, are exempt from playing in the first round - but we'll start to see them in action when the second round gets under way tomorrow afternoon.

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