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France

Surfers ride giant wave as French storms subside

Waves break on the Brittany coastline last week
Waves break on the Brittany coastline last week Reuters/Mal Langsdon

Surfers rushed to France's Atlantic coast on Tuesday to ride the gaint wave Belharra as the storm that had been pummelling the western shores since Sunday finally subsided. At least one person was killed, swept out to sea in the southern coastal city of Biarritz. Another was still missing on Wednesday. 

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Several dozen surfers descended on the town of Urrugne to take on Balharra as it reached heights of 10-15 metres.

The wave, one of the highest in Europe, is not a challenge for the inexperienced.

Caused by a strong westerly wind hitting waters that lie over a ricky seabed, it can reach 18 metres.

A homeless man was reported to have been swept away by a wave on Tuesday after a woman suffered the same fate off the Bay of Biscay town of Biarritz on Sunday.

Up and down the coast, beachfront property took a beating and sand dunes in Brittany in the north-east were swept out to sea.

"This part of Brittany is used to winter storms, especially those that coincide with high tide periods," Jean-Luc Videlaine, the prefect of the Finistère department, told RFI. "This happens regularly, and it will probably happen again, probably at the end of January."

Fourteen different town and cities have put in requests with the Natural Disaster Procedure, which gets the insurance companies involved.

A national meeting within the next week will start the process of getting compensation of those whose houses were damaged by the storm, Videlaine said.

In the calm between the storms, construction crews will start repairing and reinforcing and bomb disposal experts are also being called in.

Waves uncovered some 80 shells left over from World War II on a beach in Locmariaquer, a small town in Brittany.

Police said waves had washed away sand from under a bunker, revealing the 80 shells to someone who was walking by on Monday.

A security cordon was put up, in case any were still live.

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