Lightning hits French President`s plane, none hurt

Last Updated: Wednesday, May 16, 2012 - 00:11

Paris: Socialist Francois Hollande took over as France`s President on Tuesday and jetted off to Berlin hours later for talks on Europe`s debt crisis -- only to have his plane struck by lightning. No one was hurt.

The Falcon 7X aircraft was hit by lightning shortly after take-off today, and returned to the Villacoublay air base outside Paris as a precaution for inspection, Defense Ministry spokesman Gerard Gachet said.

Defense officials say the President and his entourage were transferred to another aircraft, a Falcon 900, and took off shortly thereafter. Hollande is due to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss Europe`s financial crisis.

It was a stormy presidential beginning for a man who promised to be a more "normal" President and less flashy than predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy.

Hollande walked up the steps of the Elysee Palace in Paris and walked out today as France`s first Socialist president since 1995, taking the helm of a country worried about Europe`s future and pledging to make it a fairer place.

The 57-year-old rode to the presidency on a wave of resurgent leftist sentiment amid Europe`s debt woes and protests against capitalism around the world.

After a ceremony steeped in tradition, Hollande displayed his populist touch with a rain-soaked ride up the Champs-Elysees avenue, standing tall in his vehicle`s sunroof to wave to crowds lining the streets before getting out for handshakes with adoring crowds.

Hollande then left within hours on his first diplomatic foray to Berlin, following a postwar custom for new French leaders to reach out to their German counterparts to solidify European unity. He also named a moderate, Germany-friendly member of his Socialist party, Jean-Marc Ayrault, as his Prime Minister.
Hollande and Merkel are in different camps, however, when it comes to solving Europe`s debt crisis. While new figures today showed the 17-nation eurozone has avoided a new recession, thanks largely to Germany, new political turmoil in Greece was reviving fears about the fate of their shared euro currency.
PTI



First Published: Wednesday, May 16, 2012 - 00:11

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