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La Rochelle: A car hit a group of cycling children in western France on Wednesday, seriously injuring three of them, local officials said.

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The group of 12 children were heading from a leisure centre to a park on bicycles mid-morning when the car hit them at a roundabout in the west coast city of La Rochelle, said local official Emmanuel Cayron.

One had to be airlifted to the city of Poitiers further inland for treatment, while two others were labelled an "extreme emergency", he said. Three others were also injured.

The fire department reported an accident in which three people were seriously injured.

Cayron said a probe had been opened to determine the circumstances of the accident.

The mayor's office said the children were accompanied by two activity leaders and regularly travelled on bicycles.