Europe recovers from killer storm, 18 dead (Lead)

January 25th, 2009 - 7:22 pm ICT by IANS  

Berlin, Jan 25 (DPA) Eighteen people died across Spain, France and Germany this weekend and millions more were recovering from the damage Sunday in the wake of a storm dubbed Klaus by weather officials.The storm, which reached speeds of up to 194 km per hour (km/h) as it tore across Europe, left a swath of destruction in its wake, with roads blocked, buildings destroyed, phone service out in much of southern France and train passengers returning home after spending much of Saturday in immobilised trains.

Spain had the highest death toll.

Four children were killed when the roof of a sports hall collapsed in the town of Sant Boi de Llobregat near Barcelona Saturday. Two adult trainers and 13 children were injured.

Radio reports said about 30 people were in the indoor arena seeking shelter from the storm when the incident happened.

Eight other deaths Friday in Spain included: a traffic officer being killed by a falling tree; a 52-year-old woman being crushed in central Barcelona when a wall collapsed on her; and a fishermen who died during a rescue operation. Some of the others were killed by falling trees.

There were four deaths in France.

A 78-year-old man died near Dax when he was struck by flying debris. Two car drivers were killed when their vehicles were hit by tree. Another woman died because a machine that helped her breathe cut out when the power failed.

However, weather officials said there would have been more deaths if their early warning system had not worked so well. Additionally, they said the storm’s effects were limited because the storm was concentrated on only three regions.

In Germany, two peopled died, one when he was struck by a barn door that had been blown off its hinges and the other in a car accident on slippery surfaces.

As the affected areas recovered from the storm Sunday, French energy provider EDF said millions of people remained without power across southern France and noted that repairs would take more than a day. Tens of thousands lacked phone service of any kind. Some families were homeless after the storm ripped the roofs off their houses.

Authorities lifted bans on road use in France, though they noted that many trees continued to be in danger of collapse.

In Spain, winds intensified two wildfires, forcing 15,000 people to evacuate their homes. In Galicia, a school and a swimming pool lost their roofs.

Climate experts said the storm’s destructive strength was further proof of the dangers of climate change.

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