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Eleven die in French storm

Rescuers
Rescuers cut through the fallen tree  


STRASBOURG, France (CNN) -- Eleven spectators have been killed at an outdoor concert during severe storms in northern France.

Six women and four men, all around the age of 18, were killed immediately. An 11th person died at the hospital later on Saturday.

They died when a tree was uprooted by the high winds and crashed down on a tent where they were sheltering from the rains.

Police said more than 85 others were injured, 17 of them seriously, at the Yiddish music performance at the Chateau Pourtales near Strasbourg, about 250 miles east of Paris.

Concert-goers had been told by organisers to shelter under tarpaulins before the tree was uprooted. Rescue workers had to cut through branches and the tarpaulins to reach the victims.

About 100 firefighters and 30 doctors were on the scene helping the injured, who were taken to hospitals in Strasbourg, near the French border with Germany.

casualty
A casualty is stretchered from the scene  

A young woman, identified only as Elizabeth, told France Info radio: "Suddenly the wind came. We heard branches crack, and someone said, 'Get out of here.' I was lucky. I got out, and then the tree fell."

French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin sent his condolences to the victims shortly after the accident and Strasbourg Mayor Fabienne Keller rushed to the scene to comfort the victims.

Last year, the European Centre for Yiddish Culture was established in Strasbourg, dedicated to reviving the language spoken by European Jewry before World War II.

Much of eastern France was battered by strong winds on Friday. Earlier in the day, a five-year-old girl was injured when a mudslide swept through her family's apartment in Tulle in southwestern France as heavy rains hammered the region.

France's national weather service advised people to stay inside during the torrential rain.

Astrid Ruff, a singer at the concert, said it was "imprudent" for officials to let the event go ahead despite predictions of bad weather.

"A huge tree fell. And then everything just fell," a shaken Ruff said on LCI television.

But Philippe Marland, the top government official in the area, said: "I don't know how you can foresee such a thing."







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