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Tuesday, August 11, 1998 Published at 08:16 GMT 09:16 UK


Total eclipse will bring chaos to Cornwall

The eclipse will last minutes - visitors will spend far longer in traffic

Planners in Cornwall expect chaos when eclipse-hunters descend on the county next year.

Traffic gridlock, food and water shortages, sanitation problems, lack of accommodation and added stress on the emergency services are anticipated when 1.5m people arrive to see the first total solar eclipse over Britain for 72 years.

[ image: Brigadier Williams: 'It's a challenge']
Brigadier Williams: 'It's a challenge'
Eclipse Co-ordinator Brigadier Gage Williams said he was confident the problems would be overcome: "We're advising people book early, come early, stay long and leave late to help avoid problems."

He said an application had been made for army help but he was confident: "It's all under control."

The BBC's Stephen Cape visits the site where preparations are being made
Once in a lifetime

The last time there was a total eclipse over part of Britain was in June 1927. It passed over the north of the country, where 3m people watched - an audience which triggered the largest recorded movement by train.

[ image: Last total eclipse in Britain was viewed by 3m]
Last total eclipse in Britain was viewed by 3m
This time only Cornwall and parts of Devon will be able to see it on 11 August 1999.

Six times the usual number of people who visit the region during the height of the summer season are expected.

Ron Morrison-Smith of the West Country Tourist Board is confident but admits there will be problems: "There is a major problem for the emergency services and traffic management - and also toilets and water and fresh food. It is a major major problem.

"But there has been a lot of planning going into this and I'm fairly confident that all will be well in the end."

Scramble for accommodation

When services for 1.5m extra people and the 500,000 extra cars that will carry them are sorted out, there is still the problem of accommodation.

[ image: Heather Couper - 'It's a must see']
Heather Couper - 'It's a must see'
Astronomer Heather Couper explains the attraction for amateurs and professionals alike: "It's rather like people being desperate to see Haley's comet as they were years ago.

"It's something that people really ought to see at least once in their lives - its like something you've never experienced before."

But most accommodation is already booked up so there is likely to be a relaxation of planning regulations to allow farmers to convert their fields into temporary campsites.

The time, the place

BBC News 24 reports on the impending mayhem
The eclipse itself will take place on the morning of 11 August, 1999, when the moon will cover the sun for about two minutes six seconds, visible between Penzance and Falmouth.

During a solar eclipse the moon passes between the Earth and the sun, and casts a shadow on the Earth's surface. Those people in the shadow are the ones who see all or part of the sun disappear.

Because the shadow of the moon moves across the Earth so quickly (roughly 1,054 mph), a total eclipse never lasts longer than a few minutes.

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