Paris’ Eiffel Tower was on Friday evacuated in error after an employee mistook a safety drill for a real incident, a police source said, as security fears compelled the authorities to cancel two main events.
“It was a safety exercise drill, the sort that is done dozens of times a week, which went wrong. One employee thought that it was a real threat and the Eiffel Tower was evacuated,” the source said.
It was unclear how many people were told to leave the landmark and the tower’s management could not immediately be reached for comment.
The incident came as French authorities announced the cancellation of two major events.
One of Europe’s biggest flea markets, in the northern French city of Lille, and the European road cycling championships, which were due to be held in Nice from September 14 to 18, were both called off on Friday.
They are the latest events to be cancelled following the November attacks in Paris that left 130 dead and last month’s Bastille Day truck massacre in the Riviera town of Nice that claimed 85 lives following a fireworks display.
The most recent attack was last week when a priest was murdered in Normandy.
“We have really tried our best, but there are risks we cannot reduce,” Lille Mayor Martine Aubry told a news conference alongside Michel Lalande, the top government official in the region.
Lille’s most popular event, held the first weekend of September each year, attracted nearly 2.5 million visitors in 2015.
Cancelling this year’s Grande Braderie de Lille was a “painful decision,” Aubry said.
In Nice, meanwhile, mayor Philippe Pradal told a news conference that the decision to cancel the European road championships had been taken due to the level of policing available.
“Given that it was an event that would have required a large police presence, and that we have not received any guarantees about their deployment, the cycling championships that Nice was due to hold in France’s name are cancelled,” he said.
Many traditional and cultural festivities have been either downsized or cancelled altogether, with Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian saying the series of jihadist attacks in France put the country in a “war situation.”
Meanwhile, the interior ministry said Saturday that French authorities have expelled a Malian believed to pose a “serious threat” to public order for belonging to a pro-jihadist movement.
“Malian national Moussa Keita was expelled to his homeland yesterday bringing to 81 the number of expulsion measures taken since 2012,” the ministry said.
On Thursday, France had expelled Algerian Abdelkrim Mostefai on suspicion of links to jihadist networks, according to a police source.