Storm Klaus Whips Through France and Spain

29 January 2009 By Claire Griffiths

The storm named Klaus that struck at the heart of southwest France and Spain five days ago (Saturday, January 24) has so far left 11 dead in its wake and is estimated will cost insurance companies as much as €600 million.

With winds topping 95 knots and waves peaking at 60 feet, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon announced a decree recognizing the storm as a natural catastrophe. Landes and Girondes were hit the hardest.

The deaths in France resulted from falling trees, carbon monoxide poisoning from electricity generators or the failure of respiratory apparatus caused by electrical power cuts. Hundreds of thousands of buildings were without power earlier this week. Extensive deforestation by the storm in Lot-et-Garonne is expected to heavily affect gardening and timber industries, key sectors for the region. Railway lines are still suffering severe delays in Aquitaine and French rail network SNCF says it will take two weeks to get back on track. Phone lines were also affected with more than 400,000 mobile phone users still without coverage on Monday night and around 100,000 landline telephones remained disconnected Tuesday evening. In Spain the death toll has reportedly reached 14 with four children killed when a gym hall collapsed in northeastern Spain.

The superyacht industry seems to have escaped much of the destruction. Cote d'Azur- and Viareggio-based brokerages and captains were relieved to say the storm did not make it that far down the coast (where the majority of superyachts are berthed for the winter). This photo was taken in Henday's harbor in southwest France and showcases the power of the storm, however.

In Spain, Victoria Allman, based on board M/Y Coco Bean in Port Vell, Barcelona, reported that although impressive, the storm left yachts in the port more or less unscathed; “Yesterday [Saturday 24th January] was quite the show. All boats here were fine. Although a two-meter by three-meter piece of a building flew through the air and splashed about ten meters from our bow. Sailboats rocked like pendulums but other than a little seasickness all were fine here."

Port Vell Marina posted guards on each dock all day long to monitor any damage. Later, talk in the Port Vell suggested M/Y Claire ripped the bollards from the dock and swung dangerous and free throughout the storm – the crew of M/Y Claire could not be reached for comment.

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