France forecasts natural disaster after hailstorms

Hailstorms broke the windscreen of this car

Agriculture Minister says catastrophe naturelle will be declared 'in a day or two' after violent hailstorms batter southeast of the country

A natural disaster will be declared in parts of southeast France, following devastating rain and hail storms on Saturday that devastated crops in the region.

The flash storms, which brought brief but violent storms that saw hailstones as big as golf balls in parts of the Drôme and Isère departments of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, killed one person in the region as well as another over the border in Switzerland, and injured 10 others.

Agriculture Minister Didier Guillaume told French television: “Everything will be done to help. A state of natural disaster will be declared. “The goal is that no farmers will have to shut down business.”

He added that many had lost 80-100% of their crops and said that a catastrophe naturelle would be declared in “a day or two”, once the full extent of the damage was known.

Firefighters were called out more than 400 times in the Drôme alone, while, in the Haute-Savoie, a 51-year-old tourist from Germany was killed by a falling tree. 

The storms were documented on social media

Weather experts have warned that climate change means that extreme weather events like this are increasingly likely, and while some crops can be protected with enough notice, severe damage similar to that which has affected farmers in the region will become more common.

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