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Now oil pollutes Atlantic beaches

Minister offers hope for communes struggling to cope in the aftermath of recent storms

BEACHES have been closed along France’s Atlantic coast after pools of oil were discovered following recent storms.

The Mayor of Croisic, Michèle Quellard, filed a complaint on Friday after oil puddles were found on nearby beaches. Other pools had been reported on beaches in the neighbouring departments of Morbihan and the Vendée.

According to the prefecture of the Morbihan, ‘oil covers about 3% of the coast’.

The communes of Saint-Brevin-les-Pins and Piriac-sur-Mer also reported oil pollution on beaches.

However, the amount of oil washed up on shores is not yet enough to activate the Polmar Plan, a government emergency plan, set up in 1978 after the Amoco Cadiz disaster off Brittany’s coast to deal with pollution caused by maritime accidents.

That means cleaning the beaches remains the responsibility of affected communes.

But Minister for Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy Philippe Martin has said that affected communes along the coast may still be eligible for financial support to help pay for clearing the oil off beaches.

The cause of the contamination has not yet been determined.

It is the latest problem faced by the storm-battered communities.

The bodies of thousands of seabirds have also been recovered in recent days.

The animals died of exhaustion during the storms and washed up on beaches along France’s Atlantic west.

The bodies of at least 5,000 birds were collected on the beaches of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques alone, according to preliminary estimates of the League for the Protection of Birds (LPO).

Puffins accounted for half the dead, as well as guillemots, gannets and kittiwakes.

“This is a considerable amount, it is overwhelming,” said Jérôme Pensu, head of the Centre for the Protection of Landes, where about 1,000 dead birds have been reported.

On Sunday, one volunteer picked up more than 120 birds on three beaches of the Landes, including 71 puffins, 54 guillemots, two penguins and a little gull.

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