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Deadly Atlantic storm 'Xynthia' batters western Europe

Video by Luke SHRAGO

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2010-03-01

The hurricane-force winds and rain of Atlantic storm Xynthia whipped through western Europe on Sunday after lashing the coasts of France and Spain overnight. Dozens of people were killed and more than a million homes left without power.

The eastward-moving Atlantic storm dubbed “Xynthia” left devastation in its wake as it passed through western Europe at the weekend, leaving at least 53 people dead and half a million without electricity.

French coastal towns in the regions of Vendee and Charente Maritime were the worst hit with heavy rains and gusts of winds uprooting trees and street signs. At least 45 people were killed in the floods in France.

FRANCE 24 correspondent, Nicolas Germain, reporting from the picturesque western town of La Faute-sur-Mer, said: “Even as late as Monday morning – over twelve hours after the storm passed through France, the roads are still flooded and the streets are filled with debris. Some still have no electricity; there are dozens of fire trucks, which are sending out rescue teams to conduct searches.”

Local residents waited on rooftops until help arrived.

Jean-Pierre, a resident of La-Faute-sur-Mer, told AFP that he and his wife woke in the night to find water pouring up the stairs, filling the house in less than half-an-hour.

‘Natural catastrophe’

French President Nicolas Sarkozy expressed his condolences to the families of the victims and praised the work of rescuers. He is due to visit the devastated area later on Monday.

"It is a natural catastrophe," French Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux told BFM TV.

Hortefeux said the French government had set aside one million euros in immediate relief aid and Budget Minister Eric Woerth issued a statement saying victims could seek tax relief.

France is also due to ask the European Union to release funds from its regional budget in order to help pay for recovery operations.

Germain reports that some inhabitants of the nearby town of Aiguillon-sur-Mer suffered a gruesome and sudden end: “The sea wall protecting the town was destroyed, so the water rose quickly as the people slept and they drowned in their sleep.”

The storm, which originated in the Iberian peninsula on Saturday before hitting France’s western coast, passed into Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

In Germany, a motorist in the Black Forest, a female jogger in the western town of Bergheim and a man walking in a forest west of Frankfurt were all killed by falling trees.

In Spain, regional authorities said on Sunday that two men aged 51 and 41 died when their car was hit by a falling tree. An 82-year-old woman was killed on Saturday when a wall collapsed in the Galicia region.

The northern cities of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia in Portugal issued flood warnings as the Douro river threatened to break its banks.

Date created : 2010-02-28


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