Wolves on loose, corpses washed up after France floods

AFP/Marseille, France
Filed on October 6, 2020
france floods, wolves, loose, corpses, washed up
n aerial view shows damaged houses in Saint-Martin-Vesubie, southern France, as clean-up operations continue after storm Alex hit the Alpes-Maritimes department, bringing record rainfall in places and causing heavy flooding that swept away roads and damaged homes, France, October 6, 2020.


Some 5,000 families were still without electricity on Tuesday after the torrents erased roads, bridges and electricity grids.

Seven wolves are on the loose after their enclosure in a southern French wildlife park was destroyed by floods which have killed at least four people and washed up dozens of buried corpses, officials said Tuesday.

The black Canadian wolves escaped from the Alpha wildlife park in a national reserve north of Nice, an area left in ruins after floods hammered southeast France on Friday.

Two agents of the French office for biodiversity (OFB) and a vet were on Tuesday scouring the area surrounding the Mercantour national reserve by helicopter.

The canines will not be able to survive on their own as they are used to being fed and face starvation unless they are found soon, OFB regional director Eric Hansen told AFP.

"The priority is to find them, and capture them with the help of a dart gun," he said.

Dozens of kilometres east of the animal park, the mayor of the town of Tende said three-quarters of the local cemetery was washed away and about 150 bodies later recovered downstream.

"They (the bodies) were carried for about 20 kilometres (12 miles) and ended up all over the place, sometimes in people's gardens," said mayor Jean-Pierre Vassallo.

- Corpses in the river -

"Residents saw a few corpses come down the Roya (river), some of whom they recognised," added Jean-Claude Guibal of the local community association, appealing for potable water and psychological support for those affected.

Rescuers continued the search for eight people listed as confirmed missing after the floods, and another 13 feared missing after loved ones received no news since Friday.

Some 5,000 families were still without electricity on Tuesday after the torrents erased roads, bridges and electricity grids.

President Emmanuel Macron will inspect the damage on Wednesday. The torrential rains also caused two deaths in Italy just across the border. 

Much of the Alpha sanctuary was destroyed by flooding, and the carcass of an Arctic wolf, another species resident in the park, was found. Two others like it "are probably dead too", Hansen said.

As for the roaming Canadian wolves, he warned of a risk of cross-breeding if they come across any of the grey wolves living wild in the nature reserve.

Black Canadian wolves are a large sub-species of grey wolves, weighing about 80 kilograms (176 pounds) each.

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