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Festivalgoers evacuated in Cannes security scare

The festival has employed tight security following a number of terror-related incidents over the past year.

FILE: A Police officers stands guard as people wait outside the main entrance of the Festival's Palace on 20 May 2017 after it was evacuated over a suspicious package, at the 70th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France. Picture: AFP.

NEW YORK - Cinema fans were evacuated over a security scare at the Cannes Film Festival after an abandoned bag was left in one of the theatres on Saturday.

The festival has employed tight security following a number of terror-related incidents over the past year.

A press screening was delayed, while festivalgoers were prevented from going into the theatre and asked to leave.

French police at first didn’t say why the evacuation was taking place, but it’s understood a bag was left in the Debussy Theatre.

Earlier this week, authorities installed a row of 400 giant flowerpots as a security measure to avert terrorist attacks during the film festival.

The Cannes festival is the first since the attack in nearby Nice last July, when a Tunisian man drove a 19-tonne truck into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day on the promenade, killing at least 80 people.

The shoulder-high flower pots along the Cannes Croisette are supposed to acting as discreet concrete barriers that should stop any similar car or truck attack.

The police have also invested in 160 metres of spiked chains that can stop a truck, deployed extra forces and called on a battalion of civilians volunteers to inform them of any suspect activity.

Some 550 security cameras are keeping an eye on things, too, said Yves Daros, head of the municipal police.

France has been under a state of emergency since November 2015 when coordinated gun and bomb attacks in Paris killed 130 people and wounded 368. Just last month, a policeman was shot dead in central Paris - the most recent in a string of attacks claimed by Islamist militants.

The US State Department has a long-standing travel alert for France and some other European countries, warning Americans to be on their guard around potential targets such as "high-profile events".

The French police have no information about a specific threat, but few events in France have a higher profile than the annual film festival. This year, Will Smith and Nicole Kidman will be among the Hollywood A-listers.

The Cannes Film Festival runs from May 17 to May 28.

Additional reporting by Reuters.

(Edited by Shimoney Regter)