Heavy rains swept across much of southern France between Sunday and Monday, inundating the city of Aix-en-Provence and leaving France’s second-largest city Marseille under a blanket of trash that had piled up on the streets following a rubbish-collector strike.
Thousands of cans littered Marseille’s popular Borély beach, along with mounds of plastic and rubber tyres. Some volunteers working to clean the area even picked up dead rats.
“This happens often in Marseille. Every year, around the same time, we have trash washing up on the beach because of the rain, but this time there was also the rubbish-collector strike,” Isabelle Poitou, a spokeswoman for environmental group MerTerre, told the AFP news agency.
According to Météo France, the national meteorological service, "the equivalent of several months of rain" pounded Marseille between Sunday and Monday. After the Huveaune river burst its banks, larger trashed items, such as gas bottles, fridges and car parts, added to the mounting trash piles.
“All the trash started piling up and got swept away with the torrent from this morning and blocked the sewers,” said one homeowner who declined to give her name.
Marseille’s Deputy Mayor Christine Juste spoke of “scenes of horror”, with some city officials blaming the disaster on the previous administration.
They “continued to build concrete everywhere,” said Marseille urban planner Mathilde Chaboche, adding that past officials had ignored the fact that “nature needs space for water to flow”.
In the city of Aix-en-Provence, the water itself was a bigger issue with rescuers having to pluck people to safety as the floods turned backyards into small lakes.
“It's sad and there is nothing we can do about it,” said one resident. “When the rain comes down like that, we cannot resist – it's impossible.”
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)