Subject: Viridian Note 00121: Les Tempetes 1999

Key concepts: France, storms, damage, oil spills, Viridian disasters

Attention Conservation Notice: If you didn't read Note 00121, you shouldn't read this one either. Because the unprecedented freak gale in Paris happened again, immediately. And the second one was worse.

Sources: various Associated Press and BBC reports.

"A second wave of fierce gales tore up trees and blew roofs from buildings today in France, killing 17 people along the southwestern Atlantic coast and bringing the death toll from recent storms in Western Europe to at least 108, police said."

"Notre Dame Cathedral and the Pantheon in Paris, the palace of Versailles and the abbey of Mont St. Michel were among the French landmarks damaged (...) in six hours of wailing 100-125 mph predawn winds. Paris cafe awnings, newspaper kiosks and tents set up for Millennium Eve celebrations became hazardous tumbleweed on the Champs-Elysees."

"In France, slabs of roofing of the Notre Dame cathedral were blown off, and a stained-glass window at the Sainte-Chapelle was shattered. Worst hit among France's great monuments was the royal palace and park at Versailles, where the roof was damaged, windows were broken, and more than 10,000 trees were knocked down."

"The home of Balzac, now a museum, was badly damaged when a falling tree smashed through its roof."

"Prime Minister Lionel Jospin's official residence, Hotel Matignon, was battered by the storm, suffering damage to its roof. Sections of fencing around the garden fell down."

"'This storm is a catastrophe without precedent. It was an exceptional, cataclysmic event with massive consequences,' Jospin said, stepping over fallen trees at the Versailles Palace near Paris."

"The gusts at Orly airport were the most powerful ever recorded, according to the official French forecasting agency Meteo.

"'In the meteorological records, there is no trace of a phenomenon as violent as this,' said Hubert Brunet, chief forecaster in the agency's Toulouse station.

"In the Bois de Boulogne in Paris, chain saws whined over massive tree trunks that tumbled across the forest floor. Families with shopping carts picked through the litter for firewood."

"Some 60,000 trees were uprooted or damaged in two forests on the outskirts of Paris, and another 2,000 were damaged along the city's streets. Authorities warned people not to visit forests because many trees still risk falling over."

"In Paris, the roofers union estimated nearly $80 million of damage to roofs and chimneys alone."

"Along the streets of Paris, towing companies started collecting the cars that had been so damaged by falling debris that they could not be moved on their own. Work crews recaptured garbage cans swept into odd nooks and outside the stately National Assembly."

"France bore the brunt of the storms which tore down pylons and cables depriving 3.5 million homes of electricity. The state electricity company EDF said a quarter of the national grid was down."

"Electricite de France (EDF), the country's national power company, has requested extra pylons, cables and generators from Germany, the UK and Spain to combat the worst crisis in its history."

"Three nuclear reactors at a power station near Bordeaux were closed late Monday after water from the flooding Grinned River seeped into the installations."

"'France has been wounded and many French are faced with cruel hardship just when they were about to celebrate the end of the year and the millennium,' President Jacques Chirac said today."

"Transport Minister Jean-Claude Gayssot said extensive damage to the country's public transport network, caused mostly by fallen trees or flooding, would not be totally fixed before the end of the year. 'The damage is considerable,' he said. 'Road, rail and air routes are affected. We are really in great difficulty.'"

"There's never been anything like this," said Jean-Claude Gayssot, the transport minister.

"On Saturday, a huge oil slick from a tanker that snapped in two at sea
finally slopped ashore. What French newspapers are calling the 'black tide' has rimmed a stretch of Atlantic coastline some 250 miles long, defeating efforts to pump and contain the massive spill. The oil damage extends north and south from the Loire River estuary at St. Nazaire."

"This morning environmental protesters dumped a pile of dead oil- covered birds collected from the tarred shoreline at the Paris headquarters of TotalFina, whose oil was aboard the shipwrecked tanker Erika."

"As storms whipped up the ocean for another night of battering winds, the oil remaining inside the sunken Erika--from 3.9 million to 5.6 million gallons--was reported leaking, possibly loosing a second, heavier wave of oil toward France's Atlantic shore."

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