French authorities have declared a state of natural disaster following a destructive hail storm that ravaged crops in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alps region, a major centre of agriculture for the country.
Strong winds and hailstones up to 7cm wide lashed south-east France over the weekend, causing many farmers in the area to lose between 80-100% of their crops, according to Agriculture Minister Didier Guillaume.
The hail also smashed car windows and damaged homes, schools and public buildings, according to reports, while fallen trees damaged roofs and caused disruption to train lines and emergency services.
Guillaume assured local farmers that the government would organise a “general mobilisation” and introduce emergency measures to deal with the catastrophe.
“Everything will be done to help,” he told French television. “The goal is that no farmers will have to shut down business.”
By declaring a state of natural disaster, the government can speed up the insurance compensation process for victims and ensure that residents are covered for all goods and property directly damaged by the storm.
The declaration applies to residential and commercial buildings, furniture, vehicles and work equipment already covered by insurance policies, but does not include damage to soil, livestock and crops that were yet to be harvested.
The government has already used its right to declare a state of natural disaster several times before, including in October 2015 after deadly floods in the Alpes-Maritimes region.
The move will be particularly consequential for state-backed reinsurer CCR, which is obligated to provide unlimited reinsurance coverage against natural disasters under the scheme.
The company noted that France is one of the very few countries with a system that guarantees all its citizens adequate compensation for losses from natural disasters, partly due to its very high penetration rate for property and casualty insurance.