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Violent hailstorms hit France, catastrophic agricultural damage reported


Violent hailstorms swept through southeastern France on June 15 and 16, 2019, causing significant infrastructural and agricultural damage. One person was killed in the town of Taninges, Haute-Savoie department of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region.

The storm brought winds in excess of 100 km/h (62 mph), heavy rain and large hail, causing widespread and, in many cases, catastrophic damage.

The epicenter of the sudden storm which struck Saturday afternoon, June 15, was at Romas-sur-Isere where streets quickly transformed into raging rivers.

Farmers reported hail the size of golf balls and up to tennis balls decimated their orchards and vineyards. In some cases, entire harvests were destroyed. 

A farmer from La Roche-de-Glun in the Drome department, south of Lyon, told AFP his entire harvest (apricots, peaches and cherries) was ruined. 

Agriculture Minister Didier Guillaume said the state would declare a natural emergency to trigger insurance payments and other help to farmers facing huge losses.

"It's catastrophic, I've rarely seen scenes like this," Guillaume said Sunday. "It's unthinkable that farmers would be forced into bankruptcy because of this."

A 51-year-old woman was killed in the town of Taninges, neighboring Haute-Savoie region, after a tree fell on a camper she was in.

Lieutenant-Colonel Herve Gabion of the fire brigade for the Drome department told AFP that weather episodes as violent as this are quite rare. "I've never seen one like it in this area." 

Severe storms also hit other parts of Europe, including Switzerland where a woman died after her excursion boat capsized in Lake Geneva. Local media reported the storm caused severe destruction in the city of Geneva. 

It took just 1 hour for winds of more than 50 kt (93 km/h / 58 mph) and violent hailstorm to cause a great deal of damage to the Bol d'Or Mirabaud fleet, world's most important regatta in closed waters with more than 500 boats at the start.

Although exact statistics do not exist, regatta organizers reported at least 212 abandonments, 40 dismastings and several capsized sailboats. Many people ended up int the water and had to be rescued.

Parts of the United Kingdom were also affected by strong winds and heavy rain this week, causing what the UK Environment Agency called 'unprecedented' flood situation in Lincolnshire.

Severe damage was reported in Poland, where storms uprooted trees and left thousands of households without electricity. 

Featured image credit: Cosanostra (@Cosanos71037091)

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