By Regis Duvignau
LATRILLE, France (Reuters) - Workers wearing masks and protective clothes gassed thousands of ducks in southwest France on Friday, in a massive cull that was ordered in an attempt to prevent a spread of the H5N8 bird flu virus.
At one farm in the village of Latrille, in the heartland of duck and geese rearing country, 8,000 ducks were taken by hand and put in coloured metal containers where carbon dioxide was piped in to kill them, normally within seconds.
In scenes reminiscent of apocalypse-themed movies, workers clad in head-to-toe protective suits, face-visors and gas masks, finished the slaughter in the space of a few hours.
France, which has the largest poultry flock in the European Union, has reported 95 outbreaks of the virus this time around.
Most of the cull is taking place in and around the Gers area of southwest France, where geese and ducks are reared in vast numbers to make the 'foie gras' duck liver delicacy.
Some 800,000 of the birds out of a population of around 18 million in the whole of the southwest, are due to be killed in the coming week.
(This version of the story corrects name of virus in first paragraph to H5N8 from H5N5 and number of outbreaks in paragraph 4 to 95 from 89)
(Writing by Brian Love; Editing by Andrew Callus)