Lightning strike delays Hollande-Merkel meeting

Lightning strike delays Hollande-Merkel meeting

There was drama during Socialist Francois Hollande’s first day as French president when his plane was struck by lightning as he travelled to his first foreign engagement.

No-one was hurt after the Falcon 7X aircraft was hit by lightning shortly after take-off.

The plane returned to the Villacoublay air base outside Paris as a precaution for inspection, French defence ministry spokesman Gerard Gachet said.

Officials say the president and his entourage were transferred to another aircraft, a Falcon 900, and took off for Berlin shortly thereafter, where Mr Hollande is due to meet German chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss Europe’s financial crisis.

Earlier, Mr Hollande was sworn in as the successor to Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris. He is France’s first Socialist president since 1995, and he takes over at the helm of a country worried about Europe’s future and pledging to make it a fairer place.

Mr Hollande’s first diplomatic foray to Berlin follows a post-war custom for new French leaders to reach out to their German counterparts to solidify European unity.

He also named a moderate, German-friendly member of his Socialist party, Jean-Marc Ayrault, as his prime minster.

Mr Hollande and Mrs Merkel are in different camps, however, when it comes to solving Europe’s debt crisis. While new figures show the 17-nation eurozone has avoided a new recession, thanks largely to Germany, new political turmoil in Greece has revived fears about the fate of their shared euro currency.

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