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Storm damage is higher than expected

Wine growers can forget about this year's harvest Keystone

Insurance companies say the violent storms that hit the Lake Geneva area on Monday caused much more damage than originally estimated.

This content was published on July 20, 2005 - 10:25

The damage to cars alone will cost insurers up to SFr70 million ($54 million), and the high winds and hail destroyed hundreds of hectares of vineyards.

The Swiss Insurance Association said hailstones the size of golf balls damaged around 15,000 cars.

Hardest hit of the vineyards carpeting the slopes above Lake Geneva was the Lavaux wine region, where the local vintners association said between 400 and 500 hectares were wiped out.

Torn-off roofs

Insurers have not yet been able to estimate the cost of the damage to buildings but expect to receive up to 4,000 claims for torn-off roofs, broken windows and flooded cellars.

At least three people were seriously injured during Monday’s storms, which brought winds of up to 160 kilometres per hour.

Boats capsized and trees were uprooted, with one falling across the railway tracks disrupting rail service in canton Valais.

The total cost of the damage could reach SFr100 million.

Claims could rise

"In the history of the vineyards we’ve never seen anything like this," Pierre Monachon, from a winegrowers’ association in canton Vaud, told French-language public radio on Monday.

Talking of "apocalyptic" scenes, Monachon said that within five minutes hailstones had destroyed the entire grape crop in his commune.

Insurers fear that claims for damage to crops could rise significantly over the next few days as winegrowers assess the extent of the destruction.

The storms in German-speaking Switzerland were less severe, with police in the Bernese Oberland reporting only minor damage.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Gusts of wind on Monday reached 160 kilometres per hour, compared with 131 kilometres per hour during hurricane Lothar in 1999.
Three people were seriously injured, but their lives were not in danger.
Up to 400 hectares of vineyards were destroyed by hail in Lavaux wine region.

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