Western Europeans today endured a second night of howling winds after a day of picking through the destruction of a furious Sunday storm that killed upward of 70 people.
France, where more than 40 died, was hardest hit by Sunday's hurricane-force winds that rolled from Brittany in the west to Alsace in the east, leaving a swath of felled power lines and broken trees. Tonight, a successor windstorm barreled across southern France.
Authorities estimated that 15 people died in Germany, 11 in Switzerland, 8 in Britain, 2 in Italy and 2 in Spain in Sunday's brutal gales.
Most of the dead were hit by branches and other flying debris, or swept into flood waters in the pounding rain. There were also deaths reported from collapsed roofs and a ski lift gondola wrenched from its moorings.
"We forget from time to time that nature has its own rules," commented Swiss President Ruth Dreifuss. "This lesson, which we have learned once again, is painful, but perhaps useful. We cannot deal with nature like a tame horse."
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, though not seriously Sunday, 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.
On the streets of Paris today, municipal service vehicles and power-company cherry pickers were ubiquitous. More than a million French households were without power for a second night tonight.
Tow trucks hauled away cars smashed by flying traffic signs or falling masonry, often whole chimneys. "We were cleaning up from Christmas anyway," joked a Paris concierge as she swept shards of glass and slate from sidewalk to gutter.
Flood warnings were still in effect across southern Britain, where authorities warned that hundreds of homes were still at risk. In Belgium, swollen rivers deprived 30,000 people of drinking water around the southern city of Charleroi. In Germany, the worst of the destruction, around Stuttgart, was laboriously being cleared away today.
French authorities said that hundreds of thousands of trees were uprooted or knocked over in the storm--"a catastrophe for our plant heritage," a forest official said on French radio.
Prime Minister Lionel Jospin today toured the destruction at several French sites, including the ancient royal park surrounding Versailles. Only 6,000 of its 10,000 trees, many of them 100 to 200 years old, were left standing after the storm.
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.
Air, rail and subway transportation in Paris and other major cities limped back toward normal service today, still unable to cope with holiday crowds stranded since Sunday morning. Air France canceled its flights out of southern airports tonight as the second storm gathered force.
The end days of the century have left France battered.
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.
CAPTION: Sunday's hurricane-force winds devastated this forest near Saales, France. A second storm swept through France last night, and more than a million households had no power.