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Yvette Austin reporting for the BBC
"In Paris some of the city's oldest trees were torn down"
 real 28k

The BBC's Jayne Evans
"Thousands of homes were damaged and many are still without power"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 28 December, 1999, 12:35 GMT
Paris storms threaten millennium chaos

Versailles palace Versailles was particularly hard hit

Paris is racing to clear up after Sunday's devastating storm which is threatening to jeopardise the city's millennium celebrations.

Many historical buildings in the French capital were damaged and tens of thousands of trees were uprooted in some of the worst gales in living memory.

This storm is a catastrophe ... an exceptional, cataclysmic event with massive consequences
Prime Minister Lionel Jospin
The rail authorities say train services will not return to normal before the end of the year.

''The damage is considerable,'' said Transport Minister Jean-Claude Gayssot. "Road, rail and air routes are affected. We are really in great difficulty.''

And the disruption continued on Tuesday as the River Seine burst its banks flooding roads and walkways.

Residents view the crane that fell on their Paris appartment A crane fell on this Paris appartment
Officials in Paris, which is expecting millions of revellers for the millennium, have asked the government to declare the city a ''natural disaster area'' as a way of funnelling additional funds into the clearing-up operation.

Paris Mayor Jean Tiberi said urgent repair work would be done quickly, and predicted that millennium parties in the city would not be disrupted.

Eleven giant ferris wheels set up along the Champs Elysees to represent movement into the new millennium survived the storms unharmed.

The Eiffel Tower, where a light show and fireworks spectacular will launch the celebrations, also escaped damage, officials said.

Damage bill

France bore the brunt of the hurricane-strength winds which ravaged much of western Europe on Sunday.

Paris has set up Ferris wheels along the Champs Elysees Paris has set up 11 ferris wheels along the Champs Elysees
Some 60,000 trees were uprooted or damaged in two forests on the outskirts of Paris, and another 2,000 along the city's streets.

The National Fund for Historic Sites and Monuments estimates it will cost $62m to $77m to repair cultural monuments.

Worst hit was the royal palace at Versailles, just outside the capital, which suffered damage to its roof and windows.

Around 7,000 trees were blown over in the grounds, including one planted by Napolean Bonaparte.

Roofing was also torn off Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and a stained-glass window at the Sainte-Chapelle was shattered.

Along the city streets, traffic lights are bent and newspaper kiosks have been knocked over.

A second storm hit France on Monday with winds gusting across the south-west of the country at speeds of more than 200km/h (125mph).

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