False alarm siren sparks concern

Unexpected alerts were signalled across Seine-Maritime on Wednesday

An unexpected siren alert that was heard across the Seine-Maritime on Wednesday was a false alarm, authorities have said.

Warning sirens in towns across France are tested at 12noon on the first Wednesday of every month - but the ones in the Normandy department were set off again at around 4pm on the same day, prompting concern among thousands of people, some of whom took to social media.

With numerous chemical facilities on their doorstep, residents are particularly attentive to such signals, which could indicate a disaster at one of the sites.

Authorities acted swiftly, issuing responses on social media accounts, describing the alert as a false alarm, caused by a 'handling error'.

The official site of the Mairie of Rouen sent this tweet:

While the Seine-Maritime gendarmerie posted this message on its Facebook page.

Dating back to the Second World War, the sirens of the Réseau National d’Alerte are supposed to sound a warning in the event of a major incident such as a cloud of toxic gas or nuclear accident or other imminent local catastrophe, such as a dam-break.

Official advice from the Ministry of the Interior says that, on hearing the siren, people are supposed to know about likely local dangers and move to avoid being affected.

The Ministry's advice is available here - and includes listening to local radio for further information, as phone lines and internet may be down, and not trying to collect children from school, as they will be cared for by teaching staff.

Read more: Only 1 in 5 knows what siren means

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