French police are investigating how a “significant amount” of cocaine and other drugs have washed up on beaches along the Atlantic coast in recent weeks. New packages continue to appear daily.
The cocaine is particularly pure and therefore dangerous, according to the prosecutor’s office in the western city of Rennes, who urged people who spot packages not to touch them but immediately call the police.
“Suspect packages have been found on all beaches … from the Loire-Atlantique department down to the Landes department [a strip of coast of more than 500km],” the prosecutor’s office said. About 14kg in drug packages were found on Pornic beach in the Loire-Atlantique on Sunday alone.
In total, more than 760kg of drug parcels with a potential value of about €60m (£52m) have washed up on the coast thickly wrapped in clear or black plastic.
Philippe Astruc, the Rennes public prosecutor, said the packages “very probably” contained cocaine from South America.
“It’s a very pure product that must not be consumed in this form because there is a very high risk of overdose,” he told France 2 TV. “There is absolutely an immediate health risk.”
Police are investigating whether a drug traffickers’ boat hit a storm or ran into trouble and released its cargo.
Sud Ouest newspaper reported that two people out walking discovered two packages on the beach at Arcachon, south-west of Bordeaux, on Friday containing 3kg of cocaine.
It said some of the packages were marked “diamante” or “brillante”, similar to packages reported to have washed up in Florida during Hurricane Dorian in September.
French police have contacted Florida authorities asking for their input into their investigation.
A source close to the inquiry told AFP that tides started washing up the packages a month ago on beaches stretching from Nantes to as far south as the resort town of Biarritz.
Local media reported finds of drug packages on beaches in La Rochelle and north of Arcachon, warning that people should not pick them up as they would be running a significant legal risk of a 10-year prison term for handling the drugs.
French police and customs officers regularly investigate drugs entering the country by sea routes, particularly via ports such as Saint-Nazaire or Le Havre. About 680kg of drugs were seized from a container in Le Havre last week.