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IN PICTURES: French town hit by freak June hailstorm

A French town has been hit by a freak hailstorm that left locals clearing drifts of ice in the streets with shovels and snow ploughs.

IN PICTURES: French town hit by freak June hailstorm
Photo: Sapeurs-pompiers des Vosges

The hail struck the town of Plombières-les-Bains in the Vosges mountains on Tuesday morning.

Romain Munier, head of communications for the local emergency services, told French media: “There were up to 60 centimetres of accumulated hail” while in the wider area, “up to 10 millimetres of water accumulated in six minutes”.

Locals were pictured clearing the street of ice with shovels and snow ploughs after the storm passed and the fire and rescue crews for the Vosges area said they had received 56 callouts in total.

Large areas of France are on weather alert for storms until Thursday, as a ‘cold drop’ passes over the country leading to extremely unsettled weather.

In most areas, however, the storms will be confined to heavy rain and thunder.

In neighbouring Switzerland, the Swiss news agency ATS reported giant hailstones up to seven centimetres wide in the canton of Lucerne.

In the canton of Fribourg, the police and fire brigade were called 300 times, including to rescue a class of 16 children and two adults caught in the hail.

Six of the children and one adult were taken to hospital.

At least five people were injured in the German-speaking Swiss cantons, including a cyclist who suffered head injuries from hailstones, according to ATS, whilst in Germany severe flooding has hit parts of the country including Stuttgart.

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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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