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Rachael Payne reporting
"Those who are particularly concerned about their holiday should contact their travel agent"
 real 28k

The BBC's Julia Bicknell
"Reports say they ignored avalanche warnings"
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James Coomarasamy, Paris
"The clear-up operation is still underway"
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The BBC's Daniel Schweimler
"Havoc across northern and central Spain"
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The BBC's Catherine Guilyardi
"Chaos and desolation were the two words used to describe Paris' main monuments"
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Wednesday, 29 December, 1999, 08:38 GMT
Storms death toll rises

At Versailles, 10,000 trees were brought down in two hours

More than three million households are still without electricity in France as storms batter Europe on several fronts.

A total of more than 130 people are reported to have been killed in three days of storms across western Europe.

Sixteen people died in the latest storms in France and Spain, with winds gusting up to 200kph.

High winds are still buffeting Italy and Switzerland, and there has been serious flooding in northern France and Belgium.

In western and central Austria a massive snow storm has triggered avalanches, killing at least 12 people.

France appeals for help

France has appealed for help from abroad as it struggles to cope with the devastation caused by the violent storms.

Electricite de France (EDF), the country's national power company, has requested extra pylons, cables and generators from Germany, the UK and Spain to combat the worst crisis in its history.

France has been hurt ... it should now bandage its wounds
President Jacques Chirac
As millions of households struggle on without power, French engineers have said they do not expect all those cut off to have their power supplies restored in time for New Year's Eve.

French President Jacques Chirac met EDF officials on Tuesday to discuss the situation.

"France has been hurt, and many French people are facing a cruel ordeal," Mr Chirac said.

"A considerable solidarity effort has been launched. Solidarity is a must within our family - France - which is in need, and which should now bandage its wounds."

Emergency services in France were already struggling to cope with the damage caused by fatal storms on Sunday, when at least 40 people were reported killed.

Bystanders come to the help of a person injured by a collapsed wall in Santander
That figure accounted for almost half the toll of 82 lives claimed on Sunday by storms sweeping across Europe.

Some of the most dramatic scenes of storm damage are at the world-famous gardens of the Palace of Versailles. There, 10,000 trees came down in two hours.

"I think this is the worst storm since the beginning of Versailles, since the building of Versailles itself," said the president of the palace, Hubert Astier.

Severe winds hit Spain

In Spain, the authorities said violent winds of up to 130kph had pushed a wall down on two construction workers in Oviedo.

Two others died when a crane fell on them in Bilbao, while a fifth was killed in nearby Barakaldo when he was crushed by a construction site hut.

Waves crash into buildings in the Quinto district of Genoa, northern Italy
A 45-year-old woman also died of hypothermia after falling overboard in the bay of Santander.

The rail service between Madrid and Paris has been suspended - one train returned to Madrid after encountering difficult conditions in northern Spain.

Communications cut

Storms and gale force winds have caused havoc in Italy, cutting railway and road communications and injuring dozens of people.

The main railway line between Rome and Naples was cut when pylons carrying the overhead electricity supply collapsed in high winds.

In Naples itself more than a dozen people were taken to hospital after being hit by falling masonry, or flying glass.

Sestriere Rescuers pulled one man alive from an avalanche in Italy
In the Bay of Naples, ferries remained in port and tugs assisted two American navy vessels which threatened to break loose from their moorings.

In Rome, the roofs of several old palaces were damaged, including the city hall, designed by Michaelangelo.

In the Italian Alps, avalanche warnings were issued and lights went out in the ski resort town of Cortina in the south Tyrol when electricity pylons were blown over by gale force winds.

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See also:
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