| ||At the heart of the Alpine Mountains, forming a natural border between France and Italy, is the Aiguille du Midi (Needle of the South), whose central peak (topped by a television relay station) rises to 3,842 meters (12,600 feet). One of the highest cable car services in the world makes regular trips between the peak and Chamonix in the valley. Every year, more than 300,000 visitors go to the top of the needle, where they have an incomparable view of Europe’s highest peak, 4,807-meter (15,767-foot) Mont Blanc, which 3,000 mountaineers climb each year. The Franco-Italian road tunnel that runs for 11.6 kilometers (7.2 miles) through these mountains was, until a disastrous fire in 1999, used annually by nearly 2 million vehicles, including more than 700,000 trucks, whose exhaust fumes are responsible for the high level of pollution in the surrounding valleys.
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