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Activists raise alarms over coronavirus litter along French coast


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PARIS — Soggy, algae-caked surgical masks resting on the seabed. Soiled, waterlogged rubber gloves, waving eerily beneath the Mediterranean waves.

A French environmental group is finding this virus-era detritus littering the Mediterranean floor near the French Riviera resort of Antibes and is trying to raise awareness and clean it up.

Video shot by the group Operation Clean Sea last week shows scattered masks and gloves on the seabed, among beer cans, cigarette butts and other trash.

The group shared the images online as France and other countries gradually reopen their beaches to warn that it could worsen pollution problems in the Mediterranean.

A local legislator has proposed stiffening fines for littering.

“We were rather unpleasantly surprised when we started to see gloves that were buried in the sand,” Joffrey Peltier, founder of Operation Clean Sea, told The Associated Press. “(A mask looked) like a jellyfish, we didn’t know exactly what it was at first.”

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The amount of virus garbage remains limited, he said, but “it’s the promise of pollution to come if nothing is done. On our beautiful Cote d’Azur, we know that as soon it starts to rain, all the garbage coming from the gutters will end up in the sea.”

Street cleaners in Paris have also complained about a rise in masks littering the sidewalks as France started relaxing confinement measures and more public places require people to wear masks.

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