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French floods: Much of southwest declared disaster zone

The floods and hail of June have devastated agriculture across southwest France, from vineyards to fruit farms.

View from near Rochefort-sur-Loire over the flooded Louet and Loire rivers (Cephas)

The French minister of the interior, Manuel Valls, said much of the Haut Pyrenees and Haut Garonne area of southwest France will be declared a natural disaster zone by the end of this week. This allows national funds to be used for relief programmes.

Flooding has been widespread across Europe. Storms hit Champagne on 20 and 21 June, with many saying high winds caused as much damage as hail. The worst damage was around the villages of Cunfin, Verpillières-sur-Ource, Mussy-sur-Seine and Rouvres-les-Vignes; its extent is currently being assessed.

Germany has seen the worst floods since 2002 with up to 20,000 agricultural properties affected.

In France, insurance company Groupama reports up to 16,500 applications for flood-related insurance payments, with multi-climate insurance payouts until the end of May totalling €60m. Groupama estimates only 35% of vineyards have effective insurance policies.

Globally, France is estimating €500m damage, with 300,000ha of agricultural land affected.

The hail in Vouvray is now estimated to have affected around two-thirds of, with half a billion euros of damage estimated. Over 250ha of vines in Cahors have suffered 80-100% loss after a similarly devastating hail storm; vineyards in Charent-Maritime and Madiran have also suffered.

French agricultural minister Stephane le Foll told newpaper Les Echos, ‘Global warming means we need to be far more proactive in the future. We need effective insurance and mutualisation systems in place so we can avoid always reacting after the fact.’

Written by Jane Anson in Bordeaux

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