MONTPELLIER, France (AFP) - Seven men drowned Sunday off France's Mediterranean coast due to a combination of high winds and strong currents, police and rescue services said.
One woman remained in hospital in a coma on Sunday evening, they added. A total of nine people have died in similar circumstances since Friday.
The fire department said the deaths were caused by south-east winds of up to 70 knots (around 130kmh) that caused dangerously high waves and strong currents.
"People venture out to sea and can't make it back," a fire department official said. "We experience this type of event at least once per summer, but this weekend's toll is heavy, above the norm," the official said.
Four of the victims died in the water or on the beach after being pulled from the sea, and three others lost their lives in hospital.
The seven men were aged between 40 and 70, and died on six different beaches in the area.
The 50-year-old woman remained in hospital in Montpellier, emergency services said, and a 42-year-old man admitted on Friday after almost drowning also died on Sunday.
A policeman said that swimmers were routinely ignoring warnings put into place by the authorities.
"We are dealing with people who defy swimming bans. Not only do they go swimming while the flags are red, but they also can clearly see that the sea is dangerous".
The entire coast of the Herault region has been afflicted by the combination of high winds and currents, which had led local authorities to warn against swimming in such conditions on Friday after the death of a 47-year-old man.