The island of Corsica was hit with surprise storms and winds of over 200km/h this morning (August 18), leaving at least five people dead.
A girl aged 13 is reported to have died when a tree was blown onto the bungalow she was staying in at a campsite around Sagone, a seaside resort in the south of the island.
A 72-year-old woman was also killed in Coggia also in the south after the roof of a hut fell onto her car.
The third victim is a 46-year-old man who was killed at a campsite in Calvi. A fisherman in Girolata (Corse-du-Sud) and a kayakist in Erbalunga (Haute-Corse) were also killed.
At least 13 other people are reported to be injured, two of whom are in a serious state.
Winds of up to 224km/h were recorded around the village of Marignana, north of Ajaccio.
Exceptionally strong gusts of 197km/h were also recorded in Calvi (Haute-Corse), while 184km/h was recorded in L'Île-Rousse, also in Haute-Corse.
In Ajaccio itself, strong winds of over 130km/h were reported.
France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin has announced plans to visit the island later today.
“I offer my full support to the Corsicans who have faced violent storms, with wind gusts of over 200 km/h,” he said.
J'apporte tout mon soutien aux Corses qui ont fait face à de violents orages, avec des rafales de vent à plus de 200 km/h. On dénombre déjà trois personnes décédées et plusieurs blessées. D'importants moyens sont engagés. Je me rendrai sur place cet après-midi.— Gérald DARMANIN (@GDarmanin) August 18, 2022
The storm appears to have surprised weather services, with Météo-France only placing the two Corsican departments on orange storm alert at the last minute this morning. That alert has now been downgraded again to yellow as the storm has moved past the island.
"The very strong thunderstorms that generated hail and very violent winds in the early morning over Corsica have moved away from the island are now heading towards the Gulf of Genoa,” Météo-France states.
Gilles Simeoni, president of the Conseil exécutif de la collectivité de Corse, described the flash storms as an “apocalyptic scenario that lasted just one hour”.
“We are groggy,” he said.
He said that French President Emmanuel Macron phoned him in the morning to ask about the situation and to express “emotion” and the disaster.
Mr Simeoni also welcomed Mr Darmanin’s decision to visit the island, saying gestures like this matter.
Damage from the storms has also been reported in Bastia in the northeast of the island.
Around 45,000 homes on the island are currently without electricity after storm damage, Electricity company EDF reports.
"The emergency services are mobilised throughout the department alongside state and local authorities,” the Préfecture de Corse et de Corse-du-Sud has stated.