French storm damage 'a catastrophe'

WEATHER New Year gales forecast as Paris counts cost of destruction to historic sites count the cosrt

THE STORMS that have ripped across Western Europe since Christmas Day are likely to return and inflict even more destruction on New Year's Eve, say weather forecasters.

France has been worst hit, with many of her monuments and churches damaged by the atrocious weather. The windows and roof of Notre-Dame cathedral have been damaged, and about 10,000 trees in the royal park at Versailles have been uprooted.

The Prime Minister, Lionel Jospin, broke off his holiday in Egypt and returned to France to assess the damage. The National Fund for Historic Sites and Monuments estimated that it will cost between pounds 38m and pounds 47m to repair the damaged cultural monuments.

At the 17th-century chateau at Versailles, near Paris, windows were shattered, and there were fears that water might leak through the broken roof. Some of the trees that were uprooted had been planted 200 years ago, during Napoleon's reign.

Windows were broken at the Orsay Museum in Paris, and a falling tree just missed the roof of the Petit Palais. One of the losses that was most felt was the wooden Valmy windmill in eastern France that was built in 1792 to commemorate victory over Prussia. The storm flattened the structure, which had been entirely restored last year. France's weather service described the storm as "historic and exceptional".

Mr Jospin declared the affected area a disaster zone, meaning insurance payments can be rushed through. The Prime Minister also praised police and firemen who worked through Sunday and Monday to clear 11,000 out of 16,000 emergency calls.

"This storm is a catastrophe without precedent. It was an exceptional, cataclysmic event with massive consequences." said Mr Jospin, as he stepped over fallen trees at Versailles. "The emergency services have done a tremendous job."

Tens of thousands of Christmas travellers were stranded when France's SNCF state railway company cancelled services across northern France. Passengers in cities spent the night in emergency lodgings in sports halls or youth hostels, where Red Cross volunteers gave them breakfast.

Train services to Normandy and the east of France are not expected to be completely restored beforel Friday.

In Germany, where the storm killed at least 15 people, roads were still blocked by trees felled by the winds, which gusted at speeds of up to108mph.

High winds ravaged Switzerland, where 12 people died including two in a ski gondola brought down in the Alps. Yachts were thrown ashore, roofs blown off houses and initial estimates said damage to buildings could run to pounds 59m. Rivers breaking their banks deprived about 30,000 people of drinking water in Charleroi in south Belgium, forcing emergency services to deliver water in tankers and plastic bags.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee