Storms put damper on French Bastille Day festivities

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Summer storms swept across France on Wednesday, leaving one person dead and prompting authorities in two cities to postpone annual Bastille Day fireworks displays.

A 38-year-old man was killed when he was crushed by a tree brought down by heavy winds at a campsite near the eastern city of Dijon, while three women were also injured, firefighters said.

An estimated 100,000 people were left disappointed in Dijon itself after severe weather warnings from national forecaster Meteo-France prompted authorities to push the evening fireworks display back by 24 hours.

It was the second year in a row this had happened.

"Meteo-France forecast winds of up to 110 kilometres (68 miles) per hour, followed by heavy rain," said Fabian Forni, a spokesman for the city.

Authorities in central Clermont-Ferrand also called off their fireworks after being unable to guarantee safety. The display was postponed until August 22, the city's liberation day.

The storms had already drenched the main Bastille Day celebrations in Paris on Wednesday morning, soaking troops at a military parade in the presence of President Nicholas Sarkozy and visiting African heads of state.

Air traffic was disrupted at the capital's two airports for an hour in the afternoon, causing around 30 flights to be diverted. Heavy rain also caused delays to suburban rail services.

In the village of Haumont in the northeast of the country, an elderly couple suffered minor injuries when they ventured outside during the storm.

A tornado hit the same village two years ago killing two people, and fearing another one was en route, the couple left their house, the local government said.

But organisers of the Vieilles Charrues music festival in Brittany opening Thursday showed little sympathy for the weather, after banning festival-goers from carrying umbrellas.

"We ask people to leave umbrellas in their cars or their tents, and to wear clothes like ponchos," a spokesman told AFP, saying the move was intended to stop people from having their view blocked.

Rain is forecast to hit the festival on Thursday evening, when British rock band Muse will headline.

© 2010 AFP

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