Storms cause chaos as tourists head for French coasts
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Storms wreaked havoc across France on Friday night, blocking trains, flooding the centre of Bordeaux and cutting off power to 160,000 households. Weather forecasters warned of more storms Saturday in a band stretching from the south-west to Paris and the north.
Thunder, lightning and torrential rain spread across the country during a stormy night and the damage in some areas, especially around the south-western city of Bordeaux, was serious:
- An Air Médeterranée flight to Beirut was forced to return to Paris Charles de Gaulle after being struck by lightning;
- Several TGV high-speed trains on the Paris-Bordeaux line could not leave stations on Saturday morning, while others were up to four hours late;
- About 30 railworkers were cutting up and removing trees that had fallen on the track, in some places every 200 metres;
- More than 500 technical staff were struggling to restore power to about 144,000 homes across the country on Saturday morning;
- A 70-year-old woman was seriously injured in Pauillac, near Bordeaux, when the church spire fell on her home;
- Bordeaux city centre was briefly flooded overnight and homes were without power and phone lines on Saturday morning;
- More than 600 holidaymakers were moved out of two campsites in the Gironde;
- Rescue workers were called out nearly 500 times in the Oise, north-east of Paris;
- A TGV and a Eurostar carrying about 1,000 passengers were stopped in the Oise late Friday;
- About 14,000 lightning strikes were recorded on Friday evening.
The storm damage should add to predicted chaos on road and rail on a weekend when tens of thousands of French and foreign holidaymakers head for the Mediterranean.
The SNCF rail network expected 450,000 passengers to take the train from just two Paris stations, Gare de Montparnassse and Gare de Lyon, over the weekend.
The first traffic jams had already appeared by 9.00am Saturday, with 20 kilometres of tailback in the Paris region and more on the A7 motorway between Lyon and Marseille and the A9 near Nîmes.
To add to the chaos about 5,000 homes in Paris lost their electricity overnight.
Power company ERDF said the power cut was not caused by the storm without giving details of the technical fault that led to it.
Several hundred were still without power on Saturday morning.