Sunday, January 25, 2009

Weather Punishes Euskal Herria

The reports about the storm that hit Western Europe keep mentioning Spain and France, well, as it happens, Euskal Herria is wedged between these two states so yes, the storm did created some havoc in the land of the Basques.

Here you have this note from Google News:

Hurricane-force winds kill 15 in Spain, France

BARCELONA, Spain (AFP) — Hurricane-force winds lashed Spain and France Saturday, killing at least 15 people including four children when part of a sports hall collapsed, while over a million were left without power.

High winds, gusting up to 150 kilometres an hour (95 miles per hour) in northern Spain, brought down part of a sports hall in Sant Boi de Llobregat, near Barcelona, a regional government spokeswoman said, killing the four children and injuring nine.

Spanish media reported the children had been playing baseball outside but took shelter in the building.

"It seems that the roof shifted and brought down part of the wall," the spokeswoman said.

Meanwhile French forecasters warned the storms could be as ferocious as the tempest in 1999, which uprooted millions of trees, although over a "more limited geographical area."

They reported record-breaking winds, reaching 184 kilometres an hour at Perpignan, and sounded a red alert across nine departments for the first time, though they reduced it to one later in the day.

The winds caused widespread disruption in both countries, with some 1.3 million homes experiencing power cuts in France, according to electricity grid operator ERDF, and tens of thousands in Spain also without power as high voltage lines were brought down.

The weather also wreaked havoc on the roads, with fallen trees hampering engineers struggling to restore power. French Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said 715 additional staff had been sent to the region to assist.

"It's the apocalypse," said Peio Poueyts, in the tourism office in the French city of Biarritz on the Atlantic coast, where 135 kilometre-per-hour winds were reported.

Train, bus and rail transportation were cancelled and many of Biarritz's stores were shuttered up.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced he would visit the region on Sunday.

Apart from the children in the Spanish sports hall, a 52-year-old woman died in Barcelona late on Friday night when she was crushed by a collapsed wall. Another woman died Saturday in the northern Castilla-Leone region when a door, lifted by the winds, crashed into her.

In Galicia, in northwestern Spain, a civil guard sergeant was killed by a falling tree as he was directing traffic.

In the southeastern Spanish province of Alicante, a 51-year-old man was also killed by a collapsing wall, while one of six seamen rescued from their Portuguese cargo ship by helicopter off Galicia died, media reported.

The death toll also included a municipal employee near Barcelona and a 60-year-old man in Spain's Catalonia province.

Four people died in southwestern France, including two drivers who were killed by falling trees in the Landes department. A 78-year-old also died when he was hit by flying debris outside his home, local authorities said.

Meanwhile, a 73-year-old women died in the southwestern Gironde department when the storm cut electricity powering her breathing machine.

In Spain's northern Basque country, waves as high as 21.5 metres (70 feet) were recorded off Cape Matxitxako, according to a spokesman for the regional interior ministry. Dozens of people had to be evacuated from the area after wind blew the roofs from their homes.

Some 14,000 people were also evacuated in the Alicante region due to a forest fire apparently touched off by a downed cable.

Flights were disrupted across northern Spain from Bilbao in the Basque Country to Ibiza in the Balearic Islands, while train travel was also disrupted.

Most ski stations in the Pyrenees mountains closed due to the risk of avalanches.

Air France cancelled domestic flights passing through the affected zone, and all rail traffic was halted in the Midi-Pyrenees region, mainly because of fallen trees on the tracks.

Authorities said Bordeaux airport and the Aquitaine bridge across the Gironde river were closed, and flights were also suspended at Toulouse airport, though they resumed later Saturday.

However rail operator SNCF said there would be no trains in the region before Sunday.

Separately, avalanches in Scotland and France killed five people with three other lives seriously endangered in the French Alps.

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