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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 June, 2003, 12:37 GMT 13:37 UK
Marseille's stink offensive
Rubbish on Marseille's streets
The stench has made life in Marseille "unbearable"

City cleaners in the southern French city of Marseille have resorted to spraying the streets with lemon-scented disinfectant to remove the stench given off by piles of uncollected rubbish.

About 8,000 tonnes of rubbish were left to accumulate in searing heat during the latest wave of nationwide strikes against pension reform.

Refuse collectors returned to work on Tuesday after a 14-day stoppage and have so far cleared up about a third of the rubbish mountain.

The streets were disgusting with rotting rubbish strewn all over them
Marseille Town Hall spokeswoman

France has been hit by a wave of public sector strikes this month over the centre-right government's plans to make people work longer before they can claim a state pension.

"It's been awful. The smell has been unbearable and the streets were disgusting with rotting rubbish strewn all over them. Life hasn't been very easy," said a spokeswoman at the municipal services department of Marseille Town Hall said.

"We occasionally add a bit of citronella to disinfecting products when cleaning up after an outdoor market, but this time we're adding it in much bigger doses and using it everywhere," the spokeswoman said.

"It's a gentle, hygienic smell and it doesn't cause problems for asthmatics in hot weather like some products," she added.

Residents of Marseille grew so furious at the pervasive stench - which attracted rats in droves - that they set rubbish heaps on fire, keeping firemen working round the clock.

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