The French government is to declare a natural emergency for farming areas in the southeast blasted by a fierce storm at the weekend. A German tourist was one of those killed when her caravan was hit by a tree.
French Agriculture Minister Didier Guillaume said a natural emergency would be declared following a severe storm that devastated harvests in the nation's southeast at the weekend.
Nine departments were put on alert over the weekend, and while the storms were brief, lasting only a few minutes, they were also very destructive, coming at the start of the fruit season. The Auvergne-Rhone-Alps region is known as the "orchard of France."
"It's catastrophic, I've rarely seen scenes like this," Guillaume told BFM television. "It's unthinkable that farmers would be forced into bankruptcy because of this."
Hail the size of ping-pong balls pelted farms, destroying crops and shattering car windshields and greenhouses.
"Pretty much my entire harvest is ruined," said Gregory Chardon who grows apricots, peaches and cherries at his farm in La Roche-de-Glun in the Drome department, about an hour's drive south of Lyon.
"The damage is enormous and widely spread — cereals, greenhouse and vegetable farms, and vineyards as well," Chardon said.
In the neighboring village of Pont-de-L'Isere, Aurelien Esprit showed apricots littering the ground and battered apple trees at his orchards in a Facebook video.
"Unfortunately the season ended for us last night. I don't think I'm going to make it this time," he said.
Storm kills two
The storm claimed the lives of two people. A 51-year-old German woman on holiday in the neighboring Haute-Savoie region died after the storm toppled a tree onto her caravan.
Across the border in Switzerland, a woman died after her boat capsized on Lake Geneva.
Rescue workers responded to hundreds of calls for help, and officials said 10 people were injured.
"Weather episodes as violent as this are quite rare, and I've never seen one like it in this area," said Lieutenant-Colonel Herve Gabion of the Drome department fire brigade.)
law/jm (AFP, AP, dpa)