Flooding kills woman, as Eleanor batters Europe with fires and avalanche alerts

A rescue team searches with a dog on the banks of the Breda River for a volunteer firefighter who has been reported missing after having fallen into the water during Storm Eleanor in Detrier near Pontcharra, Rhone-Alpes region, south-eastern France. Eleanor, the fourth winter storm to hit Europe since December, swept into the continent on January 3, 2018 after battering Britain and Ireland. (AFP)
Updated 04 January 2018
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Flooding kills woman, as Eleanor batters Europe with fires and avalanche alerts

PARIS: A 93-year-old woman died in southeastern France when her house was flooded by a river after a violent storm battered western Europe, the French interior ministry said Thursday.
Heavy rainfall in recent days has led to flooding in many parts of France and Germany. More rain is forecast for Friday in both countries.
In France, the woman’s death in the Isere department was the second blamed on the storm after a skier was killed in the Alps by a fallen tree.
The French interior ministry said a firefighter went missing in the mountainous region of Savoie while rescuing a couple standing atop a car stuck in a river.
The winter storm battered Europe on Wednesday with winds reaching speeds over 90 mph (144 kph), leaving thousands of households without power and several people injured.
Meanwhile, the French Alps were on maximum avalanche alert Thursday as Storm Eleanor swept through Europe, killing at least four people and fanning rare winter wildfires in Corsica.
With the mountains packed with skiiers for the school holidays, major resort 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 Savoie region, 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 burnt — five of them completely destroyed, local authorities said.
The prefecture added that the intensity of the blazes was “exceptional in the middle of winter.” Troops from the local air base have been deployed to help fight the flames.
Eleanor, the fourth winter storm to hit Europe since December, swept into the continent on Wednesday after battering Britain and Ireland.
It has left at least four people dead, including a 21-year-old skiier hit by a falling tree in France and a couple in their 60s swept away on Spain’s northern Basque coast by a huge wave.
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.
And a volunteer rescuer was reported missing after rushing to help when a car plunged into an overflowing river in the Alpine village of Le Moutaret.
At Lenk in central Switzerland, eight people were hurt when a violent gust of wind overturned a railway carriage.
In the Netherlands, Eleanor has dealt about 10 million euros ($12 million) 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 southwestern Spain have meanwhile brought forward their annual Epiphany feast parades — celebrating the coming of the three wise men with gifts for Jesus — to Thursday because of heavy rain forecast Friday.
In western Germany, the Mosel river was closed to all shipping, with water levels 4 meters (13 feet) higher than usual. The Neckar river in the southwest was closed between the cities of Mannheim and Heilbronn.
Along the lower reaches of the Rhine, water levels were predicted to rise until the weekend, the German news agency dpa reported. Ships along the busy waterway near Cologne were ordered to reduce their speed and remain in constant radio contact with authorities.
The worst of the storm appeared to have passed by Thursday, though much of eastern France was still on “orange” alert for heavy winds, floods and avalanches.
“The intensity of the rain and melting snow bring a risk of floods via overflowing streams and mudslides,” warned forecaster Cecile Coleou.
About 29,000 French homes remained without power, a third of them in Corsica.
Germany lowered its alert for violent winds Wednesday evening, but high tides were worrying several states, including in the Moselle Valley where heavy downpours have halted boat traffic.
The Rhine river was set to surge to seven meters (23 feet) on Thursday and was still rising, the Bild newspaper reported. River traffic will be suspended if it hits 8.3 meters.
The storm had snarled air traffic on Wednesday, briefly shutting the Strasbourg and Basel-Mulhouse airports and delaying departures from Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam.
It also played havoc with road and rail transport, leaving branches, electrical lines and other debris strewn across tracks and highways.


France bans Iran’s Mahan Air for flying arms, troops to Syria, elsewhere

Updated 25 March 2019
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France bans Iran’s Mahan Air for flying arms, troops to Syria, elsewhere

  • The ban will become effective starting April 1
  • The airlines were also banned by Germany since January

PARIS: France has banned flights in and out of the country by Iran’s Mahan Air, accusing it of transporting military equipment and personnel to Syria and other Middle East war zones, diplomats said on Monday, after heavy US pressure on Paris to act.
The decision to revoke Mahan’s license to operate in France was made after Germany banned the airline in January.
Paris had considered revoking its license more than two years ago under the presidency of Francois Hollande, but had backed down because it feared it could harm relations just after a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers was signed in 2015.
The United States imposed sanctions on Mahan Air in 2011, saying it provided financial and other support to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), and Washington has been pressing its European allies to follow suit.
“We knew of their activities from our own intelligence services and after the German move it was a question of credibility,” said a French diplomatic source.
The French ban on the airline, which had four flights a week to Paris from Tehran, takes effect from April 1. The airline’s website is no longer taking reservations and calls to its offices in Paris were not answered.
Tensions between Paris and Tehran have grown in recent months as President Emmanuel Macron and his government have become increasingly frustrated with Iran’s ballistic missile tests, regional activities and a foiled attack on an Iranian exile group in France, which Paris says Iranian intelligence was behind.
Both countries only reappointed ambassadors to each other’s capitals last month after more than six months without envoys.
There are no plans at this stage to ban another airline — Iran Air — said one diplomat.
Mahan Air, established in 1992 as Iran’s first private airline, has the country’s largest fleet of aircraft and has flights to a number of European countries, including France, Italy, Spain and Greece.
European countries have been under sustained US pressure to reimpose sanctions on Iran since President Donald Trump last year pulled Washington out of an international nuclear non-proliferation treaty reached with Tehran under his predecessor Barack Obama.
Along with Iran, the other signatories to the deal — Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China — are still trying to keep it alive and set up in January a mechanism to allow trade with Tehran and circumvent US sanctions.