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One death, 15 people injured as violent storms hit France

Wind at more than 100km/h, 60mm of rain, and hailstones like golf balls hit vast swathes of the country

A lightning strike across a stormy sky

Around 50,000 bolts of lightning were recorded across the country, “the first time [so many have been recorded in a single storm episode] in 20 years”, said the interior minister Pic:

[Article updated on June 6 at 14:45] 

One person has died and 15 people have been injured, of which two seriously, after violent storms and gusts of more than 100 km/h hit France on Saturday, June 4. All severe weather alerts have now been lifted.

Forecaster Météo France placed 65 departments on orange alert (the second-highest) on Saturday, before lifting the alert yesterday morning (Sunday, June 5). Yellow alerts for rain, storms, and flooding are still in place in 14 departments today (June 6).

The woman who died was in Rouen, said Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin. She was in her 30s and died after being carried away by water and becoming trapped under a parked car. The minister confirmed her death at 20:45 last night.

Rouen MP Damien Adam said: “My thoughts are with her family and loved ones.”

The Seine-Maritime city was hit especially hard by the weather, with some streets appearing more like rivers as the rain and hail fell. Flooding also hit Yvelines.

Of the two people severely injured, one is a 13-year-old girl, who is in a “critical state” after “an accident on a public street”, said Mr Darmanin.

The weather saw 3,500 interventions by emergency services. Two bridges were swept away in Mayenne, while crops in Landes and Gers were particularly damaged. Intense rain of up to 50-60mm fell in the southwest and the Massif central.

Hailstones several centimetres wide fell in Landes and Gers. More than 4,500 were left without power in Landes.

Bernard Malabirade, president of the Gers department of agriculture, said: “This hail corridor followed the entire border of Gers and it is estimated that 4,000 to 5,000 hectares of vines and several tens of thousands of hectares of crops were affected.”

More than 15,000 people nationwide were still without electricity yesterday morning, although the disruption was expected to have been resolved by the evening.

Around 50,000 bolts of lightning were recorded across the country, “the first time [so many have been recorded in a single storm episode] in 20 years”, said Mr Darmanin. Lightning storms were seen especially in the south of France, but also in Brittany, Centre-Val-de-Loire, Normandy, and Ile-de-France.

Paris airports Orly and Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle reported some disruption, and Orly suspended take-offs at the end of Saturday afternoon when the storm reached its peak.

SNCF reported some delays but “nothing significant”, however, the RER B line experienced the most disruption due to a “power failure at the Gare du Nord”, the rail company said.

East of Paris, music festival We Love Green was paused on Saturday due to heavy rainfall and storm risk, as “the conditions were neither pleasant for the artists nor the public”.

The minister confirmed that he would be declaring the incidents as a “catastrophe naturelle” to “enable people to access their insurance”. Some insurance is only liable to pay once the government has declared the status officially.

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said: “The government will be there for the affected areas.”

'We have already entered the age of climate change'

Pascal Canfin, president of the environment commission of the European Parliament, said today: “We have already entered the age of climate change; we must take decisive action now.”

Farmers in France say that they have been “devastated” by the weekend’s violent storms, and Mr Canfin has called for improved insurance cover for the agricultural industry, which “is already suffering from climate threat.

“Farmers are undoubtedly the profession which is experiencing the impact of climate change the most. We must therefore act in their favour to protect them with insurance and to guide them in their agricultural practices,” he told Franceinfo

In France, farmers have already been offered loan extensions and a €300million incentive to take out insurance. Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau has also announced that he will ask Météo France to make its forecasts more specific so that people can better anticipate extreme weather episodes, and is considering funding anti-hail devices for vineyards.

Yesterday evening, the Fédération nationale des syndicats d'exploitants agricoles (FNSEA) stated that the weekend's storms had been a "real catastrophe" for French agriculture, with "more than 40 departments affected by hail".

MEPs will be voting later this week on several texts regarding climate policy, including a bill proposing the introduction of carbon emission charges for goods crossing international borders.

The full list of departments affected by the alerts on Saturday, June 4 is: 

Ain, Aisne, Allier, Ardennes, Ariège, Aube, Aveyron, Calvados, Cantal, Cher, Corrèze, Côte-d'Or, Creuse, Dordogne, Doubs, Eure, Eure-et-Loir, Haute-Garonne, Gers, Indre, Jura, Landes, Loir-et-Cher, Loire, Haute-Loire, Loiret, Lot, Lot-et-Garonne, Manche, Marne, Haute-Marne, Mayenne, Meurthe-et-Moselle, Meuse, Moselle, Nièvre, Nord, Oise, Orne, Pas-de-Calais, Puy-de-Dôme, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Hautes-Pyrénées, Bas-Rhin, Haut-Rhin, Rhône, Haute-Saône, Saône-et-Loire Sarthe, Paris and its suburbs, Seine-Maritime, Seine-et-Marne, Yvelines, Somme, Tarn, Tarn-et-Garonne, Haute-Vienne, Vosges, Yonne, Territoire-de-Belfort, Essonne, and Val-d'Oise.

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