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The BBC's George Eykyn
"France is in a general state of crisis"
 real 28k

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

James Coomarasamy, Paris
"The clear-up operation is still under way"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 29 December, 1999, 17:27 GMT
Troops join storm clear-up

The storms have devastated homes and property across Europe

Thousands of troops have been deployed in France as Europe clears up after the worst storms in living memory, which have left 130 dead and millions without power.

The worst storms to hit France since records began destroyed electricity pylons, brought down millions of trees and wrecked cars and property.

At least 68 people were killed in France.

A total of 12 holidaymakers have died in avalanches in Austria.

Nine German skiers were killed as strong winds triggered avalanches near the Tirolean town of Galtuer.

Tourists had to be airlifted out of an avalanche-hit Austrian resort
Rescue helicopters had to evacuate nearly 40 others trapped by the fall.

Two other German holidaymakers were buried on Tuesday in an avalanche near the south-western village of Vent, and a snowboarder was killed in an avalanche in central Styria province.

The storms also killed 17 in Germany, 13 in Switzerland and six in Spain.

In Hungary, a helicopter crashed in high winds, killing all four people on board.

The storms have now hit Romania, where heavy snow falls and rain have blocked roads and left more than 100 villages without electricity.

Help for France

The French Government has announced it is putting 100 million francs ($15m) into a fund to help pay for the damage.

It is also calling on insurance companies to extend their deadlines for making claims.

France deployed its troops to join civilian workers in clearing debris and restoring power and water supplies to effected homes.

Repair teams from the UK, Germany, Italy and Spain have arrived in France after the national power company, Elecricite de France, appealed for help, admitting it was unable to cope with the scale of the disaster.

At least five million people have been left without power, and 400,000 homes are without telephone services.

Bystanders come to the help of a person injured by a collapsed wall in Santander
EdF, which mobilised 12,000 workers and others who recently retired, has said it is unlikely that all affected households will have power restored before the New Year, leaving thousands without heating in freezing temperatures.

Authorities in south-west France shut down three nuclear reactors at a power station, after water from a flooding river seeped into the plant.

The historic Versailles palace, near Paris, was badly hit by the storms, with more than 10,000 trees in its famous gardens destroyed.

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

Strong winds tore down high-power pylons
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.

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.

Road and rail links 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.

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.

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See also:
29 Dec 99 |  Europe
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In pictures: Europe clears up after storms
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