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European storm death toll mounts

Posted by tothewire on January 25, 2009

The strongest storms for a decade in northern Spain and south-west France have wrought widespread destruction.

The strongest storms for a decade in northern Spain and south-west France have wrought widespread destruction.

Hurricane-force winds hitting northern Spain have brought down the roof of a sports hall near Barcelona, killing four children, local officials say.

Eleven people died in other, separate incidents in Spain and south-western France as the fiercest storm in a decade blew in from the Atlantic.

Torrential rains and winds of up to 172km/h (107mph) are being reported.

More than 1.5 million homes in France suffered power cuts while road and rail links were blocked and airports closed.

The impact of the storm has been felt from the Channel Isles to Barcelona, but the strongest winds and heaviest rain were concentrated on the French south-west.

map storm region

map storm region

Although this type of active low pressure system is fairly common in winter, BBC meteorologist Alex Deakin says, Saturday’s storm is being described as the most damaging since that of December 1999 which killed 88 people.

The storm is tracking south-eastwards and is set to clear the south-east coast of France during Saturday evening.

It should then head towards northern Italy and the Adriatic, although is unlikely to be as damaging here.

Children killed

The sports hall partially collapsed in the town of Sant Boi de Llobregat, Catalonia, with between 20 and 30 youngsters inside, officials said.

The youngsters had gathered to play baseball but the fierce winds drove them to take shelter in a small covered area for spectators, made of concrete, with a corrugated iron roof.

Moments later, the high winds caused the structure to collapse.

Local people and fire-fighters helped free the survivors from the rubble but three children aged between nine and 12 died at the scene, and a fourth child died later in hospital. More than a dozen others received treatment for injures.

In other incidents

  • In the Landes region of south-western France, near Bordeaux, a driver was killed by a falling tree, a 78-year-old man was killed by flying debris and a third man, 75, was crushed by a tree
  • A woman, 73, died in France’s Gironde region when the storm cut electricity powering her breathing machine
  • A woman was crushed by a door in Burgos, Spain
  • A collapsing wall killed a woman and a falling tree killed a male park employee in the Barcelona area; a man, 60, was killed elsewhere in the Catalonia region
  • In Galicia, a policeman was killed by a falling tree as he directed traffic in Burela and a sailor from a cargo ship died when the vessel got in trouble off the coast
  • A falling wall crushed a man in Aigues de Busot, near Alicante in the south-east of Spain

Tens of thousands of homes have been left without power in Spain.

‘Ghost town’

French weather agencies had forecast the storm but it affected a wider area than expected. A state of “red alert” was declared in nine departements.

People were screaming on the street below, and bits of masonry and scaffolding continued to fall
Simon Ritchie
BBC News website reader in Rodez, France

The storm caused havoc from the Dordogne area to the Pyrenees. Torrential rains caused flooding in some areas prompting thousands of calls to the emergency services.

The force of the storm also led to the closure of airports in Bordeaux, Pau, Biarritz and Toulouse, and train services also ground to a halt, leaving several hundred passengers stranded in stations overnight.

Mark Richardson, a BBC News website reader visiting Bordeaux from the UK, writes that the city ground to a standstill following the storm overnight and felt like a ghost town.

Another reader, Simon Ritchie, witnessed the damage wrought by the storm in the French town of Rodez.

“This morning, I awoke to the sound of very strong winds and lashing rain or hail,” he writes.

“I looked out of my kitchen’s skylight window to see scaffolding and sheets or corrugated iron blowing of the adjacent cathedral. One such sheet blew about 50 yards from the tower and landed on a car below, smashing it in completely.

“People were screaming on the street below, and bits of  masonry and scaffolding continued to fall.”

http://news.bbc.co.uk

video….
[link to news.bbc.co.uk]

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One Response to “European storm death toll mounts”

  1. […] European storm death toll mounts « A Different Kind of Blog […]

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