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WEATHER

VIDEO: Violent tornado strikes western France

The second tornado in less than a week caused havoc in western France on Wednesday, but experts say the phenomenon is nothing too extreme for that part of the country.

VIDEO: Violent tornado strikes western France
The tornado that ripped through villages in the Charente Maritime was caught on camera. Photo: YouTube/Damian 180888

The latest tornado to hit the Charente Maritime département in western France caused damage in several villages around the town of Saints.

Although no one was hurt the vortex of swirling air caused damage to around 50 buildings.

The tornado, which was caught on video by a witness, looks like something you’d expect in the mid-west of America rather on the west coast of France.

However weather experts say we should not be surprised, even if it was the second tornado to strike in a week in the area.

“This is not an exceptional phenomenon,” David Dumas from the French Observatory of tornados and violent storms told TF1.

“The Charente Maritime is a “risk zone”, meaning it’s a region of France where the occurrence of tornados is higher than normal.”

However Dumas said this week’s tornado was the most violent in the area since 2013. 

The video below shows the destruction it left behind.

The tornado struck as violent storms lashed much of central France causing widespread damage and leaving three people dead.

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CLIMATE CRISIS

Scorching summer was France’s second hottest on record

Three heatwaves since June produced France's second-hottest summer since records began in 1900, the Météo France weather service said on Tuesday, warning that scorching temperatures will be increasingly common as the climate crisis intensifies.

Scorching summer was France's second hottest on record

With 33 days of extreme heat overall, average temperatures for June, July and August were 2.3C above normal for the period of 1991-2020.

It was surpassed only by the 2003 heatwave that caught much of France unprepared for prolonged scorching conditions, leading to nearly 15,000 heat-related deaths, mainly among the elderly.

Data is not yet available for heat-related deaths this summer, but it is likely to be significantly lower than 15,000 thanks to preventative measures taken by local and national authorities. 

Most experts attribute the rising temperatures to the climate crisis, with Météo France noting that over the past eight summers in France, six have been among the 10-hottest ever.

By 2050, “we expect that around half of summer seasons will be at comparable temperatures, if not higher,” even if greenhouse gas emissions are contained, the agency’s research director Samuel Morin said at a press conference.

The heat helped drive a series of wildfires across France this summer, in particular a huge blaze in the southwest that burned for more than a month and blackened 20,000 hectares. 

Unusually, wildfires also broke out even in the normally cooler north of the country, and in total an area five times the size of Paris burned over the summer. 

Adding to the misery was a record drought that required widespread limits on water use, with July the driest month since 1961 – many areas still have water restrictions in place.

MAP: Where in France are there water restrictions and what do they mean?

Forecasters have also warned that autumn storms around the Mediterranean – a regular event as air temperatures cool – will be unusually intense this year because of the very high summer temperatures. A storm that hit the island of Corsica in mid August claimed six lives. 

“The summer we’ve just been through is a powerful call to order,” Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said on Monday, laying out her priorities for an “ecological planning” programme to guide France’s efforts against climate change.

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