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Daily Archives: August 5, 2008

‘Like a bomb’: tornado kills three in France


by Etienne Balmer*

A freak tornado ripped through towns in northern France overnight, killing three people and injuring nine as it gutted houses and hurled cars through the air, officials said yesterday.
Packing violent winds and lashing rain, the flash storm tore across a 10-kilometre swathe late Sunday night, destroying some 40 homes in the space of minutes in Hautmont, the worst-hit of the four towns on its path.
"There was a deep roaring sound, like a bomb raid," local resident Erick Filleur, who was jolted out of his sleep by the storm, said.
"My wife was watching television. Then suddenly my daughter cried out, my shutters exploded and part of our roof flew off."
A woman in her seventies was killed in Hautmont when her house caved in, medics said, while rescue workers yesterday pulled the bodies of the deputy mayor and his wife from the rubble of their home.
"The windows of my apartment suddenly blew up. I lay down on the ground, I just thought I was going to die," said Mustapha Rbide, another of the town's 16,000 residents.
His neighbour Samia Sayah said her baby's crib was sent flying around the bedroom by the force of the wind, although the seven-month-old infant was unharmed.
Torn metal sheets, ripped electric cabling, roof tiles, gravel and bricks littered the town's two worst-hit streets yesterday morning, as 200 rescue workers with sniffer dogs combed the debris for possible victims.
Red Cross volunteers were handing out hot drinks and biscuits, blankets and clothes as shocked residents wandered through the streets, snapping pictures of the devastation with their mobile phones.
Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie was to travel to Hautmont to survey the storm damage yesterday afternoon, her office said.
Of the nine injured, the two most seriously hurt were in the nearby town of Boussieres-sur-Sambre, as their house was reduced to rubble.
Four elderly people were also taken to hospital for observation after the storm struck a retirement home in Hautmont. The hospital roof in nearby Maubeuge was also damaged.
Local rail traffic was also cut after the storm, which struck at around 11:00 pm (2100 GMT) Sunday, brought down local power lines, according to French rail operator SNCF.
Several dozen elderly residents and a few families spent the night huddled in a local cultural centre turned into a makeshift shelter for the night.
A handful of distraught residents, shocked and some of them injured, were still sheltering there yesterday.
Andree Fouquet, 61, her arm in a sling and both hands in bandages from glass cuts, took refuge there with her 81-year-old mother and 82-year-old aunt, whose house was entirely destroyed.
"You work your whole life, and everything is gone in a few seconds," she said.





Three charged in Kenya as top Al-Qaeda suspect flees

A Kenyan court yesterday charged three suspects with harbouring a fugitive after a top Al-Qaeda suspect wanted for the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania gave police the slip.
Fazul Abdullah Mohammed escaped arrest during a police operation in the coastal town of Malindi on Saturday in which police seized two other suspects. Mohammed's wife was arrested a day later.
The three denied the charge before a court in Kenya's port town of Mombasa and were remanded until Friday.
Mohammed is high on the US wanted list for his alleged role in the embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, which left more than 220 people dead and thousands injured on August 7 1998.
Mohammed, a native of the Indian Ocean archipelago of the Comoros, had slipped into the country to seek treatment for a kidney ailment, police said.
He is also suspected of involvement in twin anti-Israeli attacks in the Kenyan resort of Mombasa in 2002.