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France And Spain Deploy Troops After Storm Kills 25

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Bianca
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« on: January 26, 2009, 08:58:39 am »










                                    France and Spain deploy troops after storm kills 25
     





January 24., 2009
 BORDEAUX, France
(AFP)

France and Spain deployed troops Monday to join massive recovery efforts after violent storms killed 25 people and left hundreds of thousands without electricity across southern Europe.

Mourners meanwhile gathered in the northeastern Spanish town of Sant Boi de Llobregat to bury four children killed at the weekend when gale-force winds brought the roof and wall of a sports hall down on their heads.

Thousands of workers beavered on both sides of the border to restore power and reopen roads and rail lines blocked by trees uprooted by the worst storms to hit southwestern France and northern Spain in a decade.

The tempest has meanwhile barrelled across the Mediterranean to batter Italy, where a young woman was swept to her death by a wave as she walked on a beach near the southern city of Naples.

Torrential rain also triggered a mudslide on the main highway south of Naples, killing two people and injuring five, rescuers said, revising an earlier toll of three dead.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy visited scenes of destruction on Sunday, and said the emergency response had been far better than back in 1999 when a tempest killed scores and uprooted millions of trees.

In the southwestern French regions of Aquitaine, Midi Pyrenees and Languedoc-Roussillon, the storm plunged 1.7 million homes into the dark and by Monday lunchtime 680,000 of them were still without power.

"Three thousand agents from across France, backed by specialist companies and teams of electricians from England, Germany and Portugal, have been mobilised to reconnect clients," electricity grid operator ERDF said.

An extra 650 soldiers were due in the storm-struck regions Monday to back up the 300 deployed since Sunday.

Phone operator France Telecom said it also had 3,000 technicians working to restore service for 200,000 fixed line and mobile customers.

Many rail routes were still cut on Monday but the main Bordeaux-Paris line was running again. The SNCF state rail company said it had around 1,000 workers removing trees from rail lines and repairing overhead cables.

Much of the Gironde and Landes regions have key forestry industries but huge areas were flattened by the storm, officials said, adding that more than half of the trees in the area appeared to have fallen.

Across the Pyrenees in Spain, where more strong winds were forecast for Monday, troops have also been called in to help with clean-up operations and help restore electricity for some 50,000 homes still cut off.

Spanish firefighters were still battling two forest fires sparked by electricity pylons brought down by the tempest.

Eight people were killed in France, including four who inhaled carbon monoxide from electricity generators they used during power outages in two separate incidents.

Two drivers were killed by falling trees Saturday in the Landes department, while flying debris killed a 78-year-old outside his home. A 73-year-old woman died in the Gironde department when a power cut halted her breathing machine.

But most of the deaths were in Spain, where the four children died near Barcelona when the roof and wall of a sports hall came down on their heads as winds in some places reached more than 180 kilometres (110 miles) an hour.

They were playing baseball on Saturday outside the centre as the storm -- which saw 20-metre (70-foot) high waves battering the Atlantic coast -- gathered force and they ran inside to shelter.

Two more deaths were reported in Spain on Monday. Two people were found dead in the northwestern Galicia region apparently from carbon monoxide poisoning from a generator they set up after a power cut, officials said.

Fourteen died in total in Spain, including a woman crushed by a wall, another who died after a door lifted by the wind slammed into her, and a police sergeant killed by a falling tree as he was directing traffic.
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