PARIS -- As France cleans up the debris left in the aftermath of
two of the worst storms on record to hit the country, most
historical monuments, parks and gardens that suffered severe damage
are again open to the public.
On Dec. 26, gale-force winds hit Paris, collapsing roofs,
battering church spires and felling hundreds of trees in the
Tuileries Gardens and thousands more in city parks such as the Bois
de Boulogne and the Bois de Vincennes.
More than 1,000 trees were uprooted in the parkland of ancient
forest -- temporarily closed to visitors -- that surrounds Chateau
Rambouillet outside Paris.
All the capital's monuments reopened just after the new year,
but some buildings, such as Notre-Dame Cathedral and Ste.-Chapelle,
where stained-glass windows were broken, as well as St.-Denis
Basilica and the Pantheon will require extensive restoration,
according to the French Ministry of Culture.
The ministry estimates that the most basic restoration work on
the cultural monuments in Paris will cost more than $75
The largest task in the Paris vicinity will be repairing
different corners of Versailles, where there was structural damage
to some of the pavilions and extensive damage to the forest
preserve, where some 10,000 trees were uprooted.
Elsewhere in France, the cathedral at Chartres has been
temporarily closed to the public due to the danger of falling
At Mont-St.-Michel, on the Normandy coast, damage to the abbey
was extensive, but the famous site has reopened for public
The second storm, on the evening of Dec. 27, which hit France
with higher winds than the first, tore along the Atlantic coast of
the country, bringing particularly severe damage to parts of
Brittany, where an oil- tanker spill washed onto a 250-mile stretch
Also, the seaport of La Rochelle was hit particularly badly, and
there was major damage to yachts anchored in the harbor.
Miraculously unscathed by high winds in Paris were the Ferris
wheels of light that decorated the Champs-Elysees and were seen on
television sets around the world as part of the City of Light's
celebration of the arrival of the new year.