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Sunday, 2 January, 2000, 18:44 GMT
UK aids blacked-out France
Collapsed pylons
The storms destroyed many power lines across France
Britain is sending generators used for the millennium celebrations to France to help restore electricity supplies cut off by last week's storms.

The death toll from the severe storms which hit the country last weekend has now reached 88, and some 530,000 households are still without electricity.

"We have already sent 50 generators over there and we are in the process of sending a further 60 which include ones used at the Millennium Dome and throughout London and the south-east over the millennium," a spokesman for London Electricity said.

Street flooded
In Redon, Brittany, whole streets were flooded
London Electricity is owned by Electricite de France (EDF), the French national power company.

Some generators are being flown across the Channel by French military planes; others are being sent by sea to Calais.

One of the generators came from a New Year's party at the home of comedian Rowan Atkinson, best known for his role in the "Mr Bean" series.

On Saturday, French authorities hurriedly disconnected generators used to power giant Ferris wheels on the Champs-Elysees during New Year's celebrations and dispatched them to areas hard-hit by the storms.

EDF said on Sunday it had hoped to restore power to some 80,000 homes during the day, but work was hampered by fog in some areas and snowfalls in others.

Railway line
Most railway lines have now been cleared of fallen trees
France-Telecom reported similar difficulties in reconnecting telephone lines to a 500,000 homes, but a spokesman said the company hoped to restore service to 100,000 subscribers by the end of the day.

Many trees which fell on power and telephone lines still have to be removed.

SNCF, the French national rail company, said most train lines were now working again, with the exception of the Limoges-Brive and La Rochelle-Bordeaux lines.

New oil pollution

Meanwhile on France's Atlantic coast, a new wave of heavy fuel oil from the sunken tanker Erika has washed on to beaches.

The Erika broke up off the Brittany coast three weeks ago, and oil started coming ashore on Christmas Eve.

The jagged coastline of the Ile de Re, whose wealth of sandy beaches and rocky inlets are a haven for seabirds, was the latest area to be hit.

So far 400km (250 miles) of coastline has been affected.

Beach at Tharon
Rescue workers remove a can of oil from the beach at Tharon in Brittany
More than 13,000 birds have been contaminated by the slick, and two seals have been found caught in the oil.

In the Loire-Atlantique region, army teams worked over the weekend to protect the tiny port of La Turballe, where fishing boats were locked in during efforts to contain an oil onslaught.

An underwater robot monitoring the wreckage of the Erika is jammed and has stopped relaying images.

It was hoped that the robot, which had been in operation for only 12 hours, would help determine how to remove the tanker's remaining oil cargo.

The local coastguard announced that a second robot would soon be sent down to try and repair the first one.

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27 Dec 99 | Europe
28 Dec 99 | UK
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