- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 25, 2009

BARCELONA | Part of a sports center collapsed in high winds Saturday in the northern Spanish city of Barcelona, killing four children and injuring 16 other people, officials and witnesses said.

Freak winds gusting to 100 mph in some places caused at least six other deaths in Spain and France, officials said.

Emergency workers at the Barcelona sports center could be seen putting three children’s bodies into ambulances and pulling another 16 injured children from the rubble before the rescue effort ended. Accident investigators arrived on the scene to take photographs and carry out other attempts to document the cause of the collapse.

A fourth child died in Sant Joan de Deu Hospital, a regional government official said on the condition of anonymity as required by agency rules. Three other children were in serious condition, and the other injured people, including two adult baseball coaches, were either lightly injured or already released from the hospital, the official said.

A woman who said she had seen the accident told Spanish national broadcaster TVE that the children were preparing to play on a baseball field in the Sant Boi de Llobregat suburb when they took shelter under a viewing stand with a corrugated metal roof.

A woman died when a wall fell on her elsewhere in Barcelona, and a traffic officer was killed by a falling tree in northwest Galicia. A road worker died in the northwest village of La Palma de Cervello because of a falling tree, a man was crushed to death by a falling wall in the eastern city of Alicante, and a fisherman died after being rescued from a sinking boat in the northwestern port city of La Coruna.

Three villages around the eastern town of Nucia had to be evacuated after winds blew down a high-tension power pylon and started a fire in a forested area, the town mayor said.

Heavy wind gusts were fanning fires around the town, said Bernabe Cano. The leisure park Terra Mitica, which attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors a year, is located four miles south of Nucia, with the wind blowing south.

A powerful storm also lashed southwestern France, with the state-run electricity provider reporting about a million homes without power and rail authorities halting traffic in the region.

The government office in France’s Landes region announced the first death in France linked to the storm - a driver whose car was crushed by a falling tree, the regional prefecture said.

Authorities in France later raised the storm-related death toll to four, including a 78-year-old woman who died in the Gironde region after her respirator shut down in the power outage, regional officials said.

In the Landes region, in addition to the motorist whose car was crushed by a falling tree, two others who were struck by falling objects were killed, the regional government said.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said he would travel to the storm-ravaged region of France on Sunday, and the national electric utility raised its estimate to some 1.7 million homes without power Saturday afternoon.

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