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More storms due: the dos and don'ts

Do you know the safety precautions to take against lightning?

A STORM warning has been issued tonight for six departments in the far north of France.

The orange alert applies overnight and until 16.00 on Friday and covers the Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Haute-Normandie (Eure and Seine-Maritime), the Somme and Aisne.

Heavy rainfall is expected, possibly hail in some places, with winds gusting up to 80kph during the height of the storm, just after midnight.

The bad weather should gradually head east towards Belgium throughout Friday.

Storm alerts in other parts of the country have been lifted this morning, after an agitated night from Wednesday into Thursday, with thunder, lighting, fierce winds and torrential rain across a large part of western France.

What to do when a thunderstorm breaks

Every year about 100 people in France are struck by lightning - about a third of whom die as a result. The Association Protection Foudre has the following advice to protect yourself when thunder and lightning are near.

If you are outside, keep away from metal structures and try to find a shelter made of stone. Caves are suitable if you keep away from the entrance, preferably on all-fours.

Taking refuge under a tree substantially increases your chances of being struck by lightning. If in a forest, stay away from tree trunks and low-hanging branches.

If walking in a group, keep at least 3m apart. Being bunched up increases the risk of lightning passing from one person to another. Under no circumstances use an umbrella.

The association says it is safe to use a mobile phone as long as it remains close up against the user's ear. Telephone boxes, on the other hand, are not safe.

If you are in water, get out at the first sign of a storm, and do not walk on a beach (where the proximity to water increases your chances of being struck).

Campers should not stay in their tents - try to seek refuge in the toilet block or any other building made of concrete.

Cars can make a safe shelter if they do not have a convertible roof - as long as the engine is off and the roof aerial removed.

If you're in the relative safety of your home when a storm hits, the advice is to unplug the TV from the mains power and from the aerial socket. Avoid touching pipes or taps, taking a bath or shower, or using household appliances.

Electricians can install anti-lightning surge protection for your fusebox, typically costing about €300-€500.

The association adds that, at home, it is safer to make calls using a mobile phone than a landline.

This website (in French) has plenty more advice.

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