Fires and avalanche alerts as Storm Eleanor batters Europe

nsnewsNSNEWS ONLINE DESK: The French Alps were on maximum avalanche alert on Thursday as Storm Eleanor swept through Europe, killing at least four people and fanning rare winter wildfires in Corsica.

With the mountains packed with skiers for the school holidays, the resort of Val d’Isere closed its runs for the day because of heavy snowfall, while Chamonix said it was shutting many of its lifts as a precautionary measure.

“The objective is to keep everyone safe,” said David Ponson, ski chief in the Alpine region of Savoie, as many pistes were shut for a second day.

At the other extreme, nearly 400 firefighters on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica were battling blazes fanned by Eleanor’s strong gusts of wind, with three people injured in a fire overnight.

Three hundred goats were killed in the blaze at Chiatra-Canale di Verde, near the island’s east coast, and 10 homes were burnt, five of them completely destroyed, local authorities said.

The prefecture said the intensity of the fires was “exceptional in the middle of winter”. Troops from the local airbase have been deployed to help fight the flames.

Eleanor, the fourth winter storm to hit Europe since December, swept in on Wednesday after battering Britain and Ireland. It has left at least four people dead, including a 21-year-old skier hit by a falling tree in France and a couple in their 60s swept away by a wave on Spain’s northern Basque coast.

On Thursday, firefighters said a woman in her 90s died of a heart attack in Crets-en-Belledonne, in the French Alps, after floods sent a torrent of mud and water into her home. In the Alpine village of Le Moutaret, a volunteer rescuer was reported missing after rushing to help when a car plunged into an overflowing river.

In Lenk, in central Switzerland, eight people were hurt when a violent gust of wind overturned a railway carriage.

In the Netherlands, Eleanor has caused about €10m (£9m) of damage to buildings and cars, the Dutch insurers’ union estimated, cited by public television.

The whole of Spain’s northern coast remained on “orange” alert – the second highest on a four-point scale – because of the risk from strong winds and large waves.

More than 40 towns in south-west Spain have brought forward their Epiphany parades – celebrating the coming of the three wise men with gifts for Jesus – to Thursday because of heavy rain forecast for Friday.

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