Storm kills 53 and leaves one million without power in France

Photo: Reuters

The death toll from storm Xynthia rose to 53 on Sunday, as hurricane-force winds and rain lashed western Europe. More than one million people were left without power in a 500 kilometre area stretching from the Brittany peninsula to the Massif Central mountain range. French President Nicolas Sarkozy is visiting the battered Atlantic coast on Monday.


The hazardous weather conditions had subsided by Monday morning but France was left picking up the pieces, with more than fifty deaths attributed to flooding and violent winds. Gusts reached 150 kilometres per hour in some parts.

France will declare the storm a national disaster, said French Prime Minister François Fillon.

"My thoughts are with the victims and their families," he said. "Our priority is to give shelter to all people who are still unprotected and threatened by the rising waters. Together with the local authorities, the government will hasten to rebuild and reinforce embankments."

The country will ask the European Union if they can release funds from its regional budget in order to help pay for recovery operations. Minister for Europe Pierre Lellouche will go to Brussels on Monday.

Many residents were not expecting the storm to be so violent. Most of those killed by Xynthia were drowned in the coastal towns of the Vendee and Charente-Maritime regions which were severely flooded.

EDF, the French electricity firm, said around half a million clients would be without power during Sunday night, as Fillon confirmed it could take days to restore electricity to all of those affected.

Weather forecasters tracked the storm as it eventually passed into Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands on Sunday evening.

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