Paris beach festival adds vehicle barriers after Nice attack

PARIS, July 19 (Reuters) - Stout vehicle barriers will guard the entrances to the Paris Plages beach festival when it opens on Wednesday, six days after a truck driver killed 84 people when he mowed through a crowd on the French Riviera.

The apparent ease with which Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, a 31-year-old Tunisian, was able to steer a 19-tonne truck onto a a pedestrianised promenade to plough through a Bastille Day crowd in Nice, has focused attention on the potential for similar attacks on summer events around France.

“We met with the police to reassess whether we needed to cancel some of our summer events, but we made the decision not to,” said Matthieu Lamarre, a city government spokesman.

“After what happened in Nice, we are in the process of setting up devices aimed at blocking vehicles entering the site with barriers, other vehicles standing in the way and blocks of concrete,” he said, adding this would come on top of other security measures such as searches and mobile patrols.

An annual event since 2002, Paris Plages creates artificial beaches by closing a major road along the bank of the River Seine and dumping lorryloads of sand along its length.

Since 2007, the festival includes the Bassin de la Villette canal in the northeast of the city. Visitors are invited to relax on deckchairs and take part in beach activities.

Two Tunisian mayors from Tunis and Sousse, where mass shootings took place in 2015, will attend the opening on Wednesday with Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo.

Sousse, like Nice, is a seaside tourist town and the pair have been twinned since 2012. The aim of the visit is to show solidarity in the face of the attacks that have scarred both countries.

It was arranged before the Nice attack, which was claimed by Islamic State. Organisers said they have no plans for any special tribute to Thursday’s dead.

“It’s all about showing terrorism cannot divide us,” said Lamarre.

“Paris Plages needs to be viewed as a breathing space for Parisians and tourists”, he said. “A breathing space that is all the more necessary at the present time.” (Editing by Andrew Callus and Mark Trevelyan)