French and Riviera News Wednesday 17th August 2022

Local News

Gendarmes patrol forest areas - Gendarmes in the Alpes-Maritimes are patrolling forest areas on horseback to try to raise awareness among visitors of how to avoid starting fires. This summer has been a dramatic one for forest fires across France as a whole, with more than 60,000 hectares of land destroyed. And with nine out of 10 fires caused by humans, the gendarmerie in the Alpes-Maritimes is keen to take preventative action. They've been meeting walkers, joggers and picnickers in wooded areas around the department, urging them not to start campfires or barbecues, or discard cigarette butts.

A major awareness-raising operation took place recently in the Vaugrenier departmental park in Villeneuve-Loubet. No fines were issued - although the penalties for starting a fire can range from €135 to up to €45,000 and a three-year jail term depending on the severity of the fire.

Saint-Laurent-du-Var turns off beach showers - We mentioned recently that Cagnes-sur-Mer had become the latest seaside town on the Riviera to turn off the showers on its beaches, because of the drought. Now Saint-Laurent-du-Var has followed suit. Other towns to have already taken the decision include Menton and Roquebrune-Cap-Martin. Elsewhere, there's a mixed response to the idea. Villefranche-sur-Mer will discuss the matter in a town council meeting this week. Beaulieu-sur-Mer says it has reduced the pressure in the showers to save water, but has no plans to turn them off entirely. Nice is also keen to keep them running to ensure that beachgoers have a pleasant experience. With its climate, tourism, swimming pools and golf courses, the Alpes-Maritimes is the French department that consumes the most water per inhabitant, according to the French Office for Biodiversity.

Tourism suffering in the Gorges du Verdon - Meanwhile, the ongoing drought is taking its toll on tourism in the Gorges du Verdon. A decree passed earlier this month prohibits access to a small upstream area of the Gorges. Local businesses say many tourists, on hearing the news, believed the Gorges were totally inaccessible and have chosen to holiday elsewhere. While water levels are lower than usual, it's still possible to swim and practise watersports in the area.

Two cafes banned from having outdoor terraces - Authorities in Cannes have temporarily banned two cafes from having outdoor terraces, as a sanction for not complying with environmental health rules. Le Bayou was deprived of its terrace for six days for breaching noise regulations. Its owner estimates the loss of earnings at €7,000. Da Laura was handed a similar sanction for its terrace occupying too much public space. A trade union representing local restaurateurs plans to appeal against the decisions. It says Cannes town hall should be more lenient in the height of summer, when venues are doing their best to attract customers - and when major events such as the Plages Electroniques are allowed to make loud noise late into the night.

Statue of Virgin Mary disappeared - A statue of the Virgin Mary has mysteriously disappeared from the Lac des Bresses, near the French-Italian border, about 15 kilometres north of Saint-Martin-Vésubie. The 80-centimetre-tall Madonna went missing this weekend - which happens to coincide with the Assumption public holiday. The spot is only accessible on foot and an enterprising thief would have had to walk several hours with the statue in a backpack to steal it.

Classical pianist from Cap d-Ail accompanies Rammstein - A classical pianist from Cap d'Ail is busy accompanying Rammstein on their world tour. Héloïse Hervouët has played with the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic, teaches at the Rainier III Academy and she's currently opening for the German metal band on their sell-out stadium tour, with gigs from Italy and Denmark to the United States. Classical piano before a metal gig might sound a strange concept - but the idea is to offer a period of calm before the storm. She says growing numbers of metal and rap artists are keen to offer a classical experience as a warm-up.

Business

The UK is to cut import taxes on hundreds more products from some of the world's poorest countries to boost trade links. The Developing Countries Trading Scheme comes into force in January and builds on a scheme the UK was first part of while a member of the European Union. Goods such as clothes, shoes and foods not widely produced in the UK will benefit from lower or zero tariffs. The scheme covers 65 developing countries. It is on top of the thousands of products which developing nations can already export to the UK without tariffs and will affect around 99% of goods imported from Africa.

Chinese internet giants including Alibaba, Tiktok-owner ByteDance and Tencent have shared details of their algorithms with China's regulators for the first time. Algorithms decide what users see and the order they see it in - and are critical to driving the growth of social media platforms. They are closely guarded by companies. In the US Meta and Alphabet have successfully argued they are trade secrets amid calls for more disclosure. The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) has published a list with the descriptions of 30 algorithms. In a statement it said that its algorithm list would be routinely updated in a bid to curb data abuse.

German households will have to pay hundreds of euros more a year for gas under a levy to help energy companies cover the cost of replacing Russian supplies. Before the Ukraine war, Germany imported more than half its gas from Russia. Germany already has amongst the highest household gas bills in Europe. The government said the move was necessary to prevent the collapse of the German energy market. Ministers have promised the levy, which will be imposed from 1 October and remain in place until April 2024, will be accompanied by additional support for households.

Heathrow is to extend a cap on the number of passengers flying from the airport until the end of October due to staff shortages. It means the limit will now be in place until after the UK school half-term holidays. After consulting with airlines, a daily limit of 100,000 departing passengers will now apply until 29 October, the airport said. It said the measure would enable more reliable passenger journeys. The UK's largest airport said the cap would "provide passengers with confidence ahead of their half-term getaways".

Sport

Football - Manchester City have confirmed the signing of Spain's Under-21s defender Sergio Gomez from Anderlecht. The 21-year-old moves to the Etihad Stadium on a four-year deal for a fee of 13m euros plus add-ons. Gomez came through the Barcelona academy before playing under former City captain Vincent Kompany at the Belgian club.

And Wolves have agreed a club record €45m fee with Sporting Lisbon for Portugal midfielder Matheus Nunes. Nunes, 23, has been on the radar of many leading clubs in Europe. Personal terms are still to be agreed but Wolves are hopeful of concluding what would be a major coup for the club. Nunes has eight caps for his country and is expected to be part of the squad for this year's World Cup. Since signing for Sporting in January 2019, Nunes has made 76 appearances in Portugal's Primeira Liga, scoring seven goals.

Cycling - Former Giro d'Italia winner and double Olympic silver medallist Tom Dumoulin has announced his retirement from cycling with "with immediate effect". The Dutch cyclist posted his decision on Twitter, two months after saying he would retire following September's Road World Championship in Australia. The 31-year-old won the Giro in 2017 and the world time trial title in the same year.

Weather

Storms are forecast throughout the Riviera today, with stormy weather crossing the region from west to east as the day progresses. Temperatures are slightly lower than recently as a result - we're due 27 degrees celsius this afternoon. The storms are accompanied by some strong easterly winds, gusting up to 55 kilometres per hour on the coast.  The bad weather continues this evening and overnight, when there'll be rain across the region and temperatures going down to about 20 on the coast and 17 further inland.

Thursday morning starts dry with some patchy cloud, but with another stormy episode after lunch, affecting mostly the Var, but there's also rain forecast tomorrow afternoon in the Alpes-Maritimes, temperatures on the coast between 27 and 29 degrees celsius tomorrow afternoon. Friday's looking better, dry and sunny again, temperatures again around 27 to 29.

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