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UK men and equipment help restore power to France


BRITAIN WAS among a dozen countries sending emergency generators, repair equipment and personnel to France last week after the country suffered its worst natural disaster in recorded history.

Some 300 to 400 British linesmen were among additional forces drafted in to help restore the French electricity grid, co-ordinated by London Electricity which is wholly owned by Electricite de France.

'Our network is mainly underground so we have co-ordinated volunteers from other utilities who have the skill and equipment for replacing poles and lines,' a spokesman said.

London Electricity also arranged for more than 60 generators, including two big 880kVA units, to be taken to France, by ferry and military plane. Another 50 units are ready to go.

Over the Christmas weekend south west, north east and central France were hammered by 48 hours of 200km/hour hurricanes devastating electricity networks, roads and railways, and damaging buildings and homes. Fatalities number nearly 100.

An initial government estimate of total infrastructure damage, to air, rail, port and shipping lanes and coastal defences, is around FFr4.5bn (£450M).Storms also hit Switzerland, Germany, Spain and Italy, although none suffered as much as France. Despite this, these countries are among a dozen states sending aid from as far away as the Czech Republic and Canada.

EdF said that over than 25% of the high tension power grid was knocked out as pylons were blown down or pulled over. Damage to mid and low voltage networks was worse.

The cost of immediate electricity infrastructure repairs will be £400M to £500M, an EdF spokesman said.

By this week 90% of the high tension grid was reinstated and work was under way on the 'more difficult' low tension power lines.

Most of rail operator SNCF's electrified lines were running again despite more than 15,000 incidents of line and power line damage, largely from falling trees and other debris.

SNCF estimated damage at £25M for infrastructure, £15M for revenue losses and £5M for freight loss. Rail services were cancelled during the storms and the company found temporary accommodation for 10,000 stranded passengers.

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