French and Riviera News Thursday 19th August 2021

News 

Forest fires – According to reports the fire is still raging in the hinterland of Saint-Tropez having claimed two lives since it started on Monday 16th August. Meanwhile the fires in the Aude and the Vaucluse regions are under control, but firefighters are still mobilized.

The flames are still progressing in the Var, and the damage since Monday, is catastrophic. 7,000 hectares of land have gone up in smoke and in the Cannet-les-Maures, some inhabitants are still waiting and are hesitating to leave.

After two and a half days of fighting the flames, the wind turned again on Wednesday evening, a powerful East wind, the most feared by firefighters. Speaking to French media on Wednesday evening one resident of Cannet-le-Maures said "The fire is 300 meters away, but we still hope and wait; praying that it doesn't get to our house. We had to evacuate yesterday, but finally we came back to try to extinguish the fire” before adding that “If my house catches fire, it's my whole life that collapses”.  

Wednesday evening saw firefighters multiply aerial drops of water to save what they could. At midnight the situation was still not under control, with the fire moving this time in the sector of Vidauban. The area is difficult to access, as 1,200 firefighters spent another extremely difficult night.

Update 8.30am (19/08)

"The fire is less violent and its progress is slower", announces the prefecture of the Var in a publication a few minutes ago. The prefecture calls on evacuees not to return to their homes. Traffic is still strongly advised against between Bormes-les-Mimosas and Saint-Tropez, but the RD98 has reopened. 

In other news 

Five bodies found at the bottom of Lac Dramont - The bodies of five young people, all in their early twenties, have been discovered in a car at the bottom of Lac Dramont near St Raphael in the Var. The divers of the gendarmerie discovered the submerged vehicle on Wednesday morning. The families of the victims had raised the alert on Tuesday evening to announce their disappearance. Searches were started by the gendarmerie in the lake and its surroundings, for a sixth person who had earlier left the group of friends.

Two of the young people reported missing were from the region, the three others, were from the Paris region. The investigation continues.

Evacuees from Kabul land in Paris - A second French army plane carrying more than 200 evacuees from Kabul, including a "significant number of Afghan women and children" according to the French government, has landed at Paris' Roissy Charles-de-Gaulle airport early on Wednesday evening.

French health authorities report that there are 2,000 intensive care covid patients, a level last seen in June - According to data from health authorities in France nearly 2,000 people are currently in intensive care due to covid, a level not reached since mid-June.

As France fears saturation in its hospitals due to the fourth wave and the spread of the Delta variant, the University Hospital of Pointe-à-Pitre in the French West Indies in Guadeloupe is already on the verge of collapse.

Monaco - 19 new cases of covid have been declared in Monaco on Wednesday 18th August. Latest figures show that in total since the start of the epidemic 3,099 residents have been affected and 22 people are currently hospitalised. Sixty-five people are being cared for by the Home Monitoring Service.

Covid vaccination extended to gendarmes - Following an announcement from the General Directorate of the National Gendarmerie (DGGN), the covid vaccination will become an obligation for gendarmes from September 15th.

The vaccination obligation, announced on July 12th by President Emmanuel Macron to counter the strong resumption of the epidemic of covid, concerned until now the nursing and non-nursing staff of hospitals and nursing homes, professionals and volunteers with the elderly, including at home, as well as firefighters or ambulance drivers.

40 million French people vaccinated - Meanwhile France’s Prime Minister Jean Castex has announced that 40 million French people now have a complete the vaccination schedule against covid. In all, 46.6 million French people have received at least a first injection.

Black market for fake health passes - An online black-market is flourishing as people refusing vaccination against Covid in France pay hundreds of euros for fake health passes. Since July, French residents have had to show proof they have either been vaccinated, tested negative for Covid-19 or have recovered from covid in order to enter museums, cinemas sports venues, bars restaurants, cafes long distance travel as well as in some regions, large shopping centres.

While surveys show most French support the measure, opponents of compulsory vaccination have held protests for five consequtive weekends. And a black market for fraudulent health passes has sprung up on social media platform Snapchat - despite the risk of jail sentences.

European recovery plan - France will today receive a first payment of 5.1 billion euros as part of the European recovery plan. Speaking on Wednesday France’s Minister of Finance said that “France should return to its pre-crisis level of activity by the end of 2021 and not the beginning of 2022".

The plan is to be funded to the tune of about 40 billion euros until 2026 by the European Commission, which approved the French recovery plan in June. This European aid is financed for the first time by debt raised in common, for a total amount at the community level of 750 billion euros.

Zou liberty ticket introduced for free travel for 18-26-year olds - From September 1st to December 31st, 2021, 18 to 26-year-olds living in the Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur region will be able to take unlimited regional buses and trains to travel throughout the region for free. The regional network has set up the “Zou liberty” young ticket for a duration of four months.

How does it work?

On ZOU trains - TER: beneficiaries will have to download a free ticket for each journey on the Assistant SNCF application or the TER SUD site.

On ZOU buses: beneficiaries must present the driver with an identity document with a photo (CNI, passport, driver's license or residence permit) on each trip.

On the ZOU train line Chemins de Fer de Provence: beneficiaries must present at each trip an identity document with a photo (CNI, passport, driving license, residence permit).

Solitaire du Figaro sailing race detects case of covid - Participants of the “Solitaire du Figaro” sailing race have been placed in isolation as a precautionary measure, after a case of covid was detected on Wednesday. Four days before the start of the race, a member of the team of one of the skippers has tested positive for Covid-19 and 24 skippers have been placed in isolation.

The French sailing Federation said that "all necessary measures have been taken". The incident will not however question the start of the 52nd edition of the race, scheduled for Sunday, August 22nd. The village, which opened on Wednesday, August 18th in Saint-Nazaire (Loire-Atlantique), remains accessible to the public upon presentation of a health pass and the wearing of a mask.

14-year-old shot dead in Marseille - A 14-year-old teenager has been shot dead and two other minors injured, including an 8-year-old child. The shooting occurred in Marseille on Wednesday evening in the 14th arrondissement of the city.

According to police two individuals on a motorcycle opened fire before fleeing. The investigation has been handed over to the federal police.

The city of Marronniers, is one of the most deprived areas of the city. Several homicides by gunfire have taken place in recent months in France's second largest city in neighbourhoods affected by drug trafficking. According to figures from the police headquarters in mid-August, eleven people have officially died since the start of the year in settlements of accounts.

Business

A few days ahead of resources of over $370m (£268m) from the IMF were set to arrive in Afghanistan on 23rd August, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said that the country will no longer be able to access the lender's resources. The move follows the Taliban's takeover of the country last weekend. An IMF spokesperson said it was due to "lack of clarity within the international community" over recognising a government in Afghanistan.

According to the High Pay Centre the bosses of Britain's biggest companies earned 86 times the average full-time wage last year. The median pay of a chief executive of a FTSE-100 firm - the UK's blue chip company index - was £2.69m in 2020 down 17% from £3.25m in 2019, before the pandemic hit. Director Luke Hildyard of the High Pay Centre said, "these are still very generous rewards”. The think tank's research revealed average bonus size fell from £1.1m in 2019 to £828,000 last year. AstraZeneca's CEO was the highest paid executive in Britain in 2020, earning £15.45 million for his part in delivering a coronavirus vaccine that has been administered tens of millions of times already this year.

Sport 

Football - Harry Kane will not play for Tottenham in this evening's Europa Conference League play-off first leg against Pacos de Ferreira. 

And - Sheffield United goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale has been left out of the squad to face West Bromwich Albion, amid interest from Arsenal.

Tennis - Naomi Osaka says she felt "ungrateful" at points during the last year for being unable to appreciate her success. The world number two was speaking after beating American teenager Coco Gauff at the Cincinnati Open on Wednesday.

Cricket - Yorkshire batsman Dawid Malan has been recalled to the England squad for the third Test against India, with Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley both dropped from the 15-man squad.

Weather 

Clear skies, highs of 28 in Nice and 30 degrees in Cannes. 28 degrees inland in Tende and this evening going down to 14 degrees inland in the Alpes Maritimes and 23 degrees along the coast. In the Var highs of 28 degrees in Saint Tropez and along the coast with a gentle north easterly wind and 31 degrees inland in Draguignan. This evening going down to 18 degrees with clear skies.

Outlook for Friday and the start of the weekend - Highs of 28-31 degrees and mainly fine with some cloudy patches inland.

And Finally 

Did you put on weight and lose sleep during lockdown? Well you weren't alone as researchers have found that fruit flies react in exactly the same way after just a week of social isolation. This is the conclusion of researchers who explored how fruit flies respond to being kept in test tubes in solitary confinement. They found that the flies' behavioural changes were associated with changes in the expression of certain genes, as well as the activity of neurons in the brain.

Exactly why all this happens is unclear, but the team think that it might be related to how being isolated signals a certain degree of uncertainty about the future. Given this, it may make sense for flies to prepare for potential tough times ahead by eating whenever food is available and staying awake and alert as much as possible. According to the researchers, their study could provide the first robust animal model for studying the body's physiological response to loneliness.

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