Three children die during Spanish gales: Website

The accident occurred as high winds battered southwest France and northern Spain for a second day.

Three children die during Spanish gales: Website

Three children were killed when the roof of a sports centre collapsed during high winds in Sant Boi near Barcelona, Spain's Cadena Ser radio website reported on Saturday.

The accident occurred as high winds battered southwest France and northern Spain for a second day.

About 30 children were in the building at the time, Cadena Ser said. Two people were seriously injured, it added, although was not clear whether they were children or adults.

Authorities in the northeastern Spanish city confirmed three people were killed and said 16 were injured when a building next to a baseball court caved in. The Spanish fire service could not confirm that the dead were children.

In France, gales cut power supplies to more than one million homes and closed roads, railways and airports. Local authorities in the Landes region said one person was killed and one seriously injured when a tree fell on a car.

On Friday, a woman was killed in Barcelona when part of a wall fell on her, radio and newspapers reported, and police in the northern Spanish province of Galicia said a falling tree killed a policeman directing traffic.

French Agriculture Minister Michel Barnier said the storm was "the worst since 1999" and said France would call on the European Union to help fund reconstruction efforts once the extent of the damage becomes clear.

Winds of up to 173 km an hour (108 miles an hour) on the coast and 160 km an hour inland paralysed southwest France. The French weather agency Meteo France placed the region under red alert and asked residents to stay indoors for their own safety.

"Stay at home and avoid any outdoor activity. If you must go out, use extreme caution," it said in a statement.

Roads, bridgates closed

The road traffic agency issued a list of roads and bridges blocked by fallen trees or too dangerous to use. These included the Aquitaine suspension bridge across the Garonne river at Bordeaux and bridges to the offshore islands of Re and Oleron.

The airports at Bordeaux, Biarritz, Pau and Toulouse were closed, officials said.

Spanish authorities warned people to stay away from beaches and harbours as eight-metre (26-foot) waves pounded the coast. The northern province of Cantabria and the Catalonia region in the northeast remained on alert because of high winds.

A liquefied natural gas tanker operated by Gaz de France, the Provalys, was in difficulties off the French coast with a technical problem making it hard to cope with the conditions, but a company spokesman said it was under control.

The national power grid manager, Electricite Reseau Distribution France, said nearly 1.2 million homes were cut off.

"Access to certain parts of the grid that are affected by the bad weather is particularly difficult because of fallen trees," ERDF said in a statement.

The weather drew comparisons with a huge storm in 1999 that killed 88 people in France. Then, nearly 4 million people were left without electricity and it took more than three weeks for ERDF to restore power to all clients.

"It is likely that this storm will affect a smaller geographical area than in December 1999 but it is expected to be of a similar intensity," Meteo France said.

The French state railway company SNCF said it had been forced to halt services completely in the Aquitaine and Midi-Pyrenees regions, and asked travellers to postpone their journeys. It said high-speed TGV trains from Bordeaux had been stopped because of an electrical fault caused by the storm.

"Because of numerous fallen trees on the tracks, the SNCF does not expect a return to normal traffic today," it said in a statement.

Reuters
Last Mod: 24 Ocak 2009, 16:54
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