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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 July, 2003, 12:58 GMT 13:58 UK
Killer storms lash France
Caravan crushed by tree at Gennes
Huge trees crashed down on campsites
Some of the worst storms to hit France in years have left at least four people dead and 70 injured, officials say.

The storms, bringing rain, hail and high winds, swept in from the Pyrenees across southern and western France. They devastated camp sites, created deadly driving conditions and cut power to more than 300,000 homes.

The worst-affected area was the Landes region, south of Bordeaux, where several campers were hit by falling trees as wind speeds reached 150km/h (93mph).

When we got out, we thought we were lucky, because the bungalow next to us had been completely crushed
Holidaymaker
A 40-year-old tourist from the Netherlands and an 11-year-old German girl were among those killed.

Further north, near Saumur in the Loire Valley, a camper died from a stress-related heart attack during a violent storm, officials said.

In the town of Biscarosse, 1,000 people - mainly holiday makers - were forced to take shelter in public buildings.

Emergency services elsewhere received hundreds of calls to deal with collapsed roofs and flooding.

A man looks at a trailer destroyed by a fallen tree at the La Rive campsite near Biscarosse, south-western France
Campsites bore the brunt of the storms
"When we got out, we thought we were lucky, because the bungalow next to us had been completely crushed," one tourist said.

Near Saumur, seven campers were hurt when a barn in which they had taken refuge itself blew down.

Nine of the injured were seriously hurt.

Power was being restored on Wednesday to many of the homes which had lost power.

Storm warnings remained in force until midday, as the storms moved on to Brittany, Normandy and parts of the Loire Valley.

Trains, including some high-speed TGV services, were also being disrupted.

Heat wave

France and many other parts of Europe have been sweltering in exceptional summer heat.

Swiss temperatures hit their highest for 200 years on Tuesday - reaching 37C (99F).

A rock face on the Matterhorn crumbled on Tuesday, as a result of melting ice at a height of 3,400 metres (11,220 feet).

On Wednesday authorities said the mountain would remain off limits to climbers until at least the weekend.

Cattle were being moved from parched meadows around Zurich and Schaffhausen to Swiss mountain pastures.

Drought-hit Italy may have to declare a state of emergency in the north. Temperatures in the capital, Rome, temperatures hit 36% (96F) on Tuesday.

Further north it was 29.8C in the Finnish town of Utti, where the July average is 19C, and the drought has stretched far enough east to hit the Danube River.


Were you caught in the French storms? If so, please tell us about your experiences.

We were at the Haven Camp La Reserve , south of Bordeaux near Gastes. This is one of the camps with fatalities. We came back in the evening to find caravans and cars with trees crashed upon them. The whole camp site was devastated. We have now been relocated. The organisation at the campsite was poor - crucial information was passed on by word-of-mouth.
Mike Garrett, Scotland

These type of storms hit the Atlantic coast of France every year. This week's may have been intense but they were by no means unusual apart from the tragic loss of life. Looking at the TV pictures one has to query the wisdom of placing caravans so close to heavily wooded areas. The shade is a blessing in this heat but the danger should not be underestimated.
Mike Cooney, France

Lightining ravaged the skies, with thunder following up like a steam engine. The kitchen and living room windows were all smashed, with leaves and gravel scattered all over the living room floor
Colin
Flying home from Alicante, in-flight service was brought to an end when 45 minutes of violent turbulence began. The captain informed us that we had crossed into very bad thunder storms over France and even at some 35,000 feet the storms would affect us. It was very rough and unnerving for some passengers. You don't think that a storm brewing on the ground is going to affect you when you are six miles high.
Jonathan Springthorpe, UK

I witnessed the most impressive lightning display I have ever seen. The temperatures before the storms were stifling, and although we luckily suffered no damage we are now a lot cooler!
Sue Pain, France

We have a house between Angers and Saumur: our stonemason rang us up this morning to say that our fig tree had been uprooted, our olive tree torn apart, the neighbour's wall pulled down. They did not have electricity and the road was blocked by fallen trees. Our electrician who lives in the Layon area, some 20 miles away, said it was not so bad. We suppose it was a very localised kind of tornado. We get them in the States, but in the Loire Valley (la douceur Angevine), it is very unusual indeed.
Annette Armstrong, Virginia USA

Last night I awoke to my worst nightmare, a cool holiday turned into a horror movie. Lightining ravaged the skies, with thunder following up like a steam engine. The kitchen and living room windows were all smashed, with leaves and gravel scattered all over the living room floor. I honestly have never seen anything like this before Many cars were either turned upside down or lying on their side.
Colin, United Kingdom

I flew into France yesterday morning to visit my grandchildren and was expecting a pleasant week. To my horror I found myself getting drenched because water was cascading through the roof of my son's home onto my bed.
Lilian Punter, France

I guess I am lucky that I don't live in the regions that were the worst hit by the storms on Tuesday night, and I sympathise wholly with the families of those who who were killed and with those who were injured. I was privileged on Tuesday night to witness what I can only describe as an impressive display of power: lightning hitting the ground on the horizon, the Eiffel Tower sparkling for its hourly 15 minutes, and the entire sky being lit up in the clouds.
Emily Crane, Paris, France

We watched with awe as the skies darkened. Throughout the day all the local shopkeepers were warning me about the storm to come. The heat of the day was We had just sat down to eat as the wind started to build. For hours the storm raged around us, fierce rain and wind continued most of the night. Our Dutch holiday guest said he did not believe lightning like that existed except in films.
Sue Etherton, Montcaret Dordogne France

Last night our campsite was devastated. Trees blown down on to cars, caravans and tents. Amazing no-one was injured. We were all evacuated briefly to a local bar where all nationalities bonded under the extreme conditions.
Peter Williams, Saumur, France

I have lived in the Loire Valley near Doué-la-Fontaine for nearly seven years and was over-awed by the sheer ferocity of this storm -worse then 1997 or 1999. My wife and had gone to bed and I watched the build-up from our bedroom window. We immediately moved downstairs to relative safety where we could evacuate quickly. This was immediately justified when a bolt of lightning earthed in the neighbouring field just 100m from our house.
Alan Baxter, France

We were on holiday, camping on the coast near Bordeaux but decided to cut our holiday short as we couldn't bear the heat any longer. We returned late on Monday evening. I can't believe how lucky we are to have made that decision when we did. My heart goes out to all the people affected by the storms.
Jude Woodward, UK

It was terrifying. I had just made myself a cheese sandwich when the windows of my house were smashed by the wind and the rain. Glass went everywhere and I didn't get to eat my sandwich. I didn't come all the way to France for something like that to happen.
Matthew Hedges, France

We live not far from Saumur, in Argenton-Chateau. It was like something from a nightmare, a continuous bank of lightning as wide as the visible sky rolled in, just after sunset.
Tim, France

The usually bright evening sky turned from day to night - proper judgement day stuff
Roland Marshall
Carignan-de-Bordeaux
We have woken up to a scene from an Oliver Stone classic. The most shocking picture was not the overturned cars nor the beaten roofs or walls but the loss of so many oak trees. I've been living over here in the Bassin D'Arcachon costal area (south of Bordeaux) for four years never have I seen such carnage - it was more overwhelming than the Great Storm of 99.
Paul Burton, France

We were not hit as badly as our neighbours in the Lande, but the skies were certainly spectacular last night. Lightning lit up the skies as far as the eye could see and thunder shook the buildings. Luckily we had plenty of warning, so we managed to batten down the hatches. Out thoughts are with those less fortunate than us today.
Ken Austin, Dordogne, France

I live in a village on a hillside overlooking Bordeaux and the storms at around 8pm last night were impressive, to say the least: the clouds were so dark and menacing that the usually bright evening sky turned from day to night, incessantly streaked with lightning - proper judgement day stuff. The coast seemed to bear the brunt of the storms, though. Today's cooler weather is a relief, however, since we've had stifling heat for weeks.
Roland Marshall, Carignan-de-Bordeaux, France

There was heavy rain and strong winds coupled with thunder and all-night lightening in Paris last night.
Daniel Fortune, Paris




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Caroline Wyatt
"Many homes remain flooded or without roofs"



SEE ALSO:
In pictures: France's surprise storm
16 Jul 03  |  Photo Gallery
In pictures: Wild weather
16 Jul 03  |  Photo Gallery
Europe bakes in historic highs
15 Jul 03  |  Europe
Severe weather batters France
05 Jan 03  |  Europe
Winds lash the French south-west
30 Dec 99  |  Europe
Emergency threat in dry Italy
14 Jul 03  |  Europe


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