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Freezing weather kills flamingoes

Météo France issues orange alert for 67 departments - but says thaw is already on the way

FREEZING temperatures have caused the deaths of more than 100 pink flamingos on the salt marshes in the south-west as France faces another day of fierce cold and strong winds.

Météo France has issued orange weather warnings for 67 departments for the freezing weather, black ice and fog as temperatures hovered between -7 and -14 in lowland areas.

However, forecasters said a thaw was on the way, bringing an end to the freezing weather which started on January 30. Today only regions in the centre of the country were expected to remain below zero - running from north-east to south-west, Champagne-Ardennes to Auvergne.

It comes too late for the iconic pink flamingos on the salt marshes of the Aude. They are finding it difficult to find their usual foods of shellfish, worms and plankton and dozens of weakened birds have been frozen into the ice.

Parc de Camargue ornithologist Frédéric Lamouroux told La Dépêche: "The main problem is getting access to the water for feeding - as soon as there is a coating of ice on the surface the flamingoes cannot get at their food."

However, at Gruissan the birds are also facing Tramontane winds of up to 130kph and cannot fly to warmer areas.

Firefighters have been trying to round up as many as they can catch to move them to a bird sanctuary.

It is estimated there are around 40,000 pink flamingoes along the coastline. In 1985 freezing weather over several weeks caused the deaths of 6,000 birds.

Photo: Sonia Marotta

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