Man suffers second-degree burns from ‘pebble’ found on French beach

A man in north-west France suffered severe burns to his fingers and leg after picking up a ‘pebble’ from a beach that turned out to be a piece of World War II phosphorus.

Benoît Mabire was walking with his wife and two children on the beach at Saint-Côme-de-Fresné, Calvados (Normandy) on November 8, when he picked up an interesting-looking pink “pebble”. His wife washed it overboard and he put it in his coat pocket for safekeeping.

He was especially attracted to the unusual “intense” pink color.

However, the “pebble” was actually a piece of white phosphorus from World War II, and it soon caught fire. Once dried and stored in a pocket, it had rubbed against the other stones in the man’s pocket, and the friction and air caused it to ignite.

The man only realized this when he saw smoke coming out of his pocket. His pants then caught fire as he stood next to the coat pocket. He suffered second degree burns to his fingers and leg.

He now warns others who may be walking on Normandy beaches to “be very careful of the pretty little pebbles”.

Chunks of white phosphorus may appear as red, pink or yellow “pebbles” and are likely remnants of phosphorus bombs from the conflict.

The prefect of Calvados issued a warning on the same subject, and showed a photo of a piece of reddish phosphorus. It said: “[The stones] does not dissolve in water, but burns on contact with air.

He added that phosphorus can cause burns that need to be treated in a “hospital setting.”

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