French minister sounds alarm over drought

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Ecology Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet declared on Monday that France was "now in a state of crisis" over rainfall shortages.

"All the warning lights are either orange or red," Kosciuscko-Morizet told the press after chairing a high-level panel on drought.

"The situation is similar to July in terms of water tables, river flow and snow runoff," she said. "We are now in a state of crisis."

More than two-thirds of France's water tables are at below-normal levels, the Office of Geological and Mining Research (BRGM) said separately.

Nearly a third of the country's 95 departments, or administrative districts, have imposed water restrictions on part or all of their territory.

The worst-hit region is Poitou-Charentes, in the centre west, where restrictions have halved irrigation levels for farmland and outlawed lawn water and the filling of swimming pools.

Cereal farmers and cattle farmers in many regions have warned of poor harvests or higher meat prices.

The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) said in early May that rainfall shortage was common across northern Europe after an exceptionally dry and warm spring.

April in France was the second warmest since 1900, and the month was the warmest on record in Britain, according to national weather agencies.

© 2011 AFP

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