Recent storms which claimed 69 lives in France and left three million homes without electricity also kept the loss adjusters busy.

Crawford said that 201 losses were reported to its Paris office in the five days after Christmas.

These included a property and business interruption loss for a wine producer in Bordeaux totalling FF65m (£6.5m).

The storms were followed by severe flooding in a number of areas, heavy snow, avalanches and the oil pollution on the West coast from the oil carrier Erika. Clean-up costs alone are estimated at 300 million Francs (£30m).