Sat, Jul 08, 2006 - Page 20 News List

World Cup: Growing death toll does little to quell French celebrations

AP , PARIS

Overnight celebrations marking France's World Cup semi-final win over Portugal were marred by several deaths, though that did little to dampen the country's jubilant spirit.

Some 500,000 fans flooded the streets of the French capital after France's 1-0 win, police said. In keeping with tradition, many converged on the Champs-Elysees, lighting up the famed boulevard with flares to match the blue, white and red French flag.

Five people died during festivities around France.

In Montpellier, a young man died from a knife wound to the neck near a square where the match played on a giant screen. Two people died in separate traffic accidents, and a young man died jumping off a bridge in the central city of Lyon as he celebrated the win and his high school graduation.

A reveler in Paris fell from the roof of a subway onto the tracks at the Opera Metro station, police said, adding that an arriving train passed over the victim.

Several injuries were reported, including among police officers, and scores of arrests were made.

More than 22 million people across the country tuned in for the match -- the biggest TV audience so far this year, channel TF1 said.

Advancing this far in the tournament has been particularly sweet for a nation beset by malaise -- and one that had little faith in its team going into the Cup.

Most revelers remained peaceful but energized, mounting Paris monuments and dancing through streets of numerous cities, but scattered violence by some raucous fans was reported.

Violent incidents were reported at the Charlety stadium in southern Paris where the match was broadcast on a huge screen. One person was injured and hospitalized, police said.

Some 2,000 police officers deployed in the French capital for the game made 189 arrests, police headquarters said on Thursday.

Street parties after major soccer wins or on New Year's Eve often end with scattered violence. But police have been especially vigilant following riots that broke out last fall in troubled neighborhoods where many immigrants from Africa live with their French-born children.

Politicians from France's governing party, beleaguered by political crises, were quick to congratulate the team, with hopes the honors would rub off.

Immediately after the match, the normally debonair prime minister Dominique de Villepin draped himself in a French flag at the stadium in Munich and showered the team with "a lot of emotion, a lot of love."

"Bravo to everyone!" said a statement from President Jacques Chirac, who will head to Berlin for tomorrow's final.

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