Hurricane-force winds kill 15 people as storm hits Europe
Sunday, January 25, 2009
The storm made landfall near to Bordeaux, France at 5:00 am Central European Time on Saturday the 24th January. It traveled south-eastwards towards the south-east coast of France throughout Saturday morning, finally reaching there at 1:00 pm. It is expected to head north-eastwards over Italy and the Adriatic Sea, but without causing damage. Low pressure systems are fairly common in Europe at this time of year. Some reports have called it the storm of the decade; BBC meteorologist Alex Deakin said "Saturday's storm is being described as the most damaging since that of December 1999 which killed 88 people."
Four children aged between 9 and 12 died at a sports hall in Sant Boi de Llobregat, near Barcelona. The children intended on playing baseball, but sought shelter inside a covered area made of concrete with a corrugated iron roof. The structure collapsed, as a result of the wind. Local people and fire-fighters were at the scene in aiding children to escape the rubble. Three children died at the scene, a fourth died in hospital and 16 have been treated for injuries.
Other fatalities include a woman, who died after a wall collapsed and a man struck by a falling tree in the Barcelona area. In Landes, south-west France, a falling tree struck a driver; a 78-year-old man was hit by debris and another man, aged 75, was crushed by a tree. A wall crushed a man in Aigues de Busot in the south-east of Spain. A policeman was struck by a falling tree as he directed traffic in Burela and a sailor from a cargo ship died when the vessel got into trouble off the coast of Galicia. In Burgos, Spain, a woman was crushed by a door.
Approximately 1.7 million homes in France and tens of thousands of homes in Spain experienced power cuts. A woman, aged 73, died in France after a power-outage stopped her breathing machine. Road and rail links were blocked and airports closed. Airports in Bordeaux, Biarritz, Pau and Toulouse were shut, as well as train services, leaving hundreds of passengers stranded overnight.
Michèle Alliot-Marie, the French interior minister, stated that in addition to the 300 civil security agents located in the Landes region of France, another 715 agents would be deployed. She also expressed her intent to fly there today, after the high winds have decreased. French President Nicolas Sarkozy told reporters he would travel to the affected area tomorrow. In Bordeaux's Gironde region, 19 residents of a retirement home were evacuated by rescuers following its rooftop being blown away. Authorities have also evacuated campers from the pine forests in Landes.
Thousands were evacuated from nearby housing estates in La Nucía, north of Benidorm in Alicante, as the Spanish Army helped to fight a forest fire, which was started by a felled electricity pylon. There were also forest fires in the region of Catalonia, while Spain put emergency services on high alert. Waves over 20 metres high were registered off the northern coast of Spain and dolphins were stranded on beaches in the region as a result of high winds.