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PLANS TO reopen the 11km Mont Blanc tunnel suffered a setback this week when cracks appeared in the lining and concrete debris fell onto the road. The cracks appeared in a section's lining, which was undamaged by the 1999 fire.

It is thought it could have been weakened by the tunnel refurbishment after the fire. Remedial work included drilling through the tunnel wall to form new caverns for fire shelters. Last weekend, the tunnel underwent a full scale evacuation trial. This involved placing 200 volunteers, eight lorries, three coaches and two minibuses 3km from the French end of the tunnel and filling it with synthetic smoke.

Observers expressed concern about the time it took motorists to leave their vehicles after the alarm was sounded.

A group of banks and government overseas aid agencies has launched a US$305M (£217.5M) fund to finance infrastructure work in Africa. The Emerging Africa Infrastructure Fund is backed by Standard Bank, Barclays Africa, the Department for International Development, Emerging Markets Partnership, the Development Bank for South Aftrica and German investment company DEG.

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