26 January 2009

Storms kill three more in Spain - power cuts in France - Summary

The Earth Times, 26 Jan 2009 13:36:09 GMT

Santiago de Compostela/Paris - Stormy weather has claimed three more likely victims in Spain, bringing the death toll in Spain and France to 24 people, media reported Monday. A couple was found dead in their home in Cervo on the coast of Spain's north-western Galicia region on Monday. They appeared to have died of poison gases from an old stove after a storm had left the area without electricity, rescuers said.

In San Sebastian in the Basque region, rescuers retrieved the body of a woman who appeared to have been swept by high waves to the sea.

The three deaths brought the apparent death toll in Spain to 15 since Friday.

The victims included four children who were killed in the collapse of a sports hall near Barcelona. More than 2,000 people on Monday attended a funeral for the victims, who were between 9 and 12 years old.

A hailstorm meanwhile sparked flooding that hampered traffic and affected some flights in the northern city of Santander. In the nearby region of Catalonia, the damage done by storms prevented some 8,000 pupils from going to school.

Tens of thousands of people remained without power in northern Spain, though electricity was gradually being re-established.

In eastern Spain, firefighters brought under control two wildfires which had been fanned by winds and devastated about 1,100 hectares of forest and bush near Valencia and Alicante.

Meanwhile in neighbouring France, nearly 700,000 households remained without electricity in the south-west following the weekend's winter storm which killed at least nine people.

In addition, many of the stricken homes were also deprived of drinking water because the pumps were powered by electricity.

The head of the utility EDF, Pierre Gadonneix, said current would be restored to 90 per cent of the households within a week.

Some 1.7 million households were without electricity during the height of the hurricane as winds of more than 180 kilometres per hour tore down power lines and uprooted trees.

The number of deaths linked to the most violent storm to strike France in nearly 10 years rose to nine overnight with the discovery of four people killed by carbon monoxide because their heaters ceased to function because of the cut in current.

The national weather service Meteo-France issued a 24-hour flood alert beginning 0500 GMT for the region, as more rain was forecast to fall.

The French Army was set to deploy another 700 soldiers later Monday to aid the 300 already on the ground in restoring power and clearing roads.

Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said Monday that the government would declare a state of disaster within two weeks for the region.

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