26 Jan 2009

Fierce storm kills 15 in Spain, France

3:06 pm on 26 January 2009

Four children have been killed in Spain when a sports centre near Barcelona collapsed during high winds.

At least 11 others died elsewhere in northern Spain and France, struck by falling trees, debris or collapsing walls, as gales battered the region for a second day, cutting power, disrupting flights and blocking roads.

In the sports centre disaster, winds of more than 100 km/h ripped the roof off a building next to a baseball court in Sant Boi, near Barcelona, causing the breeze block walls to collapse inwards. The children who died were aged between nine and 12 years.

Tens of thousands in Spain were left without power and gales disrupted flights and rail travel. Waves of more than 20 metres were registered off the northern coast.

In France, gales cut power supplies to more than one million homes and closed roads, railways and airports.

French Agriculture Minister Michel Barnier said the storm was "the worst since 1999" and said France would call on the European Union to help fund reconstruction efforts once the extent of the damage becomes clear.

Winds of up to 173 km/h on the coast and 160 km/h inland paralysed southwest France.