Six dead as storms batter France

18th December 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Dec 17 (AFP) - Six people died Friday when hurricane-strength winds battered Paris and large areas of northern France, cutting power to hundreds of thousands of homes and causing major disruption to air, rail and road traffic.

PARIS, Dec 17 (AFP) - Six people died Friday when hurricane-strength winds battered Paris and large areas of northern France, cutting power to hundreds of thousands of homes and causing major disruption to air, rail and road traffic.

Gusts of up to 130 kilometres (80 miles) per hour lashed the region, prompting the state weather service Meteo France to issue its second-highest alert and warning against people using their cars.

The state electricity company EDF said power was cut to 385,000 homes, 200,000 of them in Normandy northwest of Paris and in the northeastern Pas-de-Calais region, and emergency services said they had received thousands of calls because of falling tiles, branches and downed power lines.

Late on Friday evening, some 200,000 homes were still in the dark. Most of those killed were victims of falling trees. A 61-year-old woman was killed in a western Paris neighbourhood when a tree came crashing down on her car, police said, while a motorcyclist was also hit in the capital.

In the Somme region of northeastern France a man was hit by a tree and two men were killed whilst they were out walking in northern Aisne region, one also by a tree.

Meanwhile an unidentified man aged 28 believed to belong to a Gypsy community was killed when he fell off a roof he was repairing in the western suburb of Vernouillet after a piece of metal sheeting he was standing on was dislodged.

Earlier police reports said that the man had been decapitated by the piece of metal.

In the capital Paris, parks, cemeteries, gardens and the Eiffel Tower were closed as the famed symbol was buffeted by massive gusts - and skating rinks on the tower, outside City Hall and in front of the Montparnasse train station were shuttered.

The famous Chateau of Versailles was also shut and visitors were evacuated.

The property is still recovering from a 1999 Christmas storm which uprooted more than 10,000 trees on its grounds - a storm which caused major damage notably to forests across much of northern and eastern France.

The main Paris airports of Charles de Gaulle and Orly were also hit, prompting delays of an hour for around 50 flights and some cancellations.

Airport authorities later said that services were gradually returning to normal by Friday evening.

Many trains in northern France were brought to a standstill, with delays hitting commuters during rush hour on their way home for the weekend, although the high-speed Eurostar connection between Paris and London was unaffected.

In Normandy, a high motorway bridge spanning the Seine river was buffeted by winds that knocked over a truck and a caravan, without causing injuries. Officials closed the structure after the incidents.

Falling trees also injured the occupants of cars in two communities southwest of Paris and in northern France.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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