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Tuesday, August 10, 1999 Published at 17:26 GMT 18:26 UK

Anxious wait for eclipse

There is only a 15% chance of getting a good view

Eclipse watchers in the south-west of England are making last-minute preparations for Wednesday's event - as weather forecasters warn that the chances of cloud-free skies are 15% "at best".

Special report
Special report
11 August
The Met Office says that clouds are likely to build up in the region on Wednesday morning, with only small chance of getting a good view of the moon blocking out the sun in Cornwall and south Devon.

But optimistic astronomers, led by local celebrity astronomer Patrick Moore, have been setting up their equipment and hoping for the best at campsites and cliff-tops around the counties.

The BBC's Nicholas Witchell reports: "The crowds have finally arrived"
Many of the less optimistic are dashing to Torquay, on the very eastern edge of the path of totality, where the chances of a clear day were earlier predicted to be higher at 20-30%. But the latest Meteorological Office forecast now says all of the South West is equally unlikely to see the eclipse.

The Eclipse 99 Travel Centre said that roads into the south-west appeared no busier than usual for the time of year.

Although cars are still flooding into the region at the rate of about 2,000 an hour, motorists have been staggering their journeys so well that traffic is simply steady.

Pagan ceremony

A spokeswoman for the centre said that it was still not too late for people to make a last-minute trip, although she did suggest that people set off on Tuesday night rather than Wednesday morning.

[ image: Chances of a clear day are highest in Torquay]
Chances of a clear day are highest in Torquay
Pagans are also preparing for what they say will be a momentous occasion. On Wednesday, authorised rituals will be performed at ancient sites including Boscawen-un, Men an Tol and the Hurlers.

Pagan priestess Sue Ward, who will feature in a BBC documentary called The Dark Side of the Sun on 14 August, said many people would come to the eclipse looking for a spiritual experience.

"For pagan people this has probably the same significance as the millennium to Christians," she said.

Arch druid Ed Prynn is working overtime on his daily sun dance to clear the skies in time for Wednesday's total solar eclipse. "These sun dances do work against all the odds," he said.

"I am not God or Merlin but you should have seen the sunset we had after last night's dance. It went down like a great red duster into the Celtic Sea."

Rave becomes violent

But another celebration turned sour, with a rave descending into violence as police and officials moved in to confiscate sound equipment.

Officers with protective helmets and shields were pelted with bricks and mud as they moved onto a festival camp at Trefullock Moor near Truro, Cornwall shortly before midday on Tuesday.

Two local district council workers were taken to hospital after collapsing during skirmishes with some of the 1,000 travellers gathered for the five-day Moon Mooners event.

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