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France counts the cost of storm-hit weekend

ReutersREUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier

French rescue services halted the search for a windsurfer missing off the south coast but the hunt for 12-year-old British boy, Pierre Barnes, continued. As strong winds lashed southern France and the temperature plummeted, a homeless man was found dead in Paris and a car ferry sprung a leak after smashing into the quay in the port of Marseille.

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The search for the 26-year-old windsurfer missing in the Mediterranean Sea off Sérignan was called off on Sunday night and not resumed on Monday with officials declaring there was little hope of finding him.

But the search continued for Pierre Barnes, the 12-year-old missing on the island of Porquerolles.

Winds of up to 130 kilometres an hour, only experienced two or three times in a decade, lashed southern France in the weekend and early snowfall caused power cuts for thousands of homes.

In Marseille the Napoléon Bonaparte, the flagship of the SNCM ferry company that runs from mainland France to Corsica, was being stabilised Monday after breaking its moorings and taking on water on Saturday night.

Two supposedly watertight compartments were flooded after the boat smashed into the dock, leaving its giant bulk tilting dramatically.

The car ferry moved slightly during the night but the wind had subsided so no further damage was done.

Divers were sent to weld the breaches under water so that the water can be pumped out.

In Paris a homeless man was found dead on the street on Sunday. His death was probably due to the drop in temperature to 2.3°C at a time of year when 7.0°C is the average at night.

Two students died on Friday when they were swept away by water into an underground canal on the campus of Toulon University.

About 7,000 households remained without electricity Monday morning in the Ardeche and the Drome after over 50,000 were cut off during the weekend thanks largely to early snow.

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