News24

Storm lashes France

2010-02-28 13:00

Paris - A powerful storm packing hurricane-force winds moved north to the west coast of France on Sunday after lashing Spain and Portugal, killing at least three people and causing transport chaos.

Five of France's 95 departments were placed on red alert for only the second time since the emergency system was introduced in 2001 and 69 others on orange alert.

Winds were expected to reach up to 150km/h an hour, according to weather service Meteo France, but not the record 200km/h levels of a deadly 1999 hurricane that battered the country.

A 10-year-old boy was killed by a falling tree as he played football in northern Portugal, the country's civil protection service said.

A man was killed by a falling tree branch in the French town of Luchon, in the southern Pyrenees region, police said.

And in Spain, an 82-year-old woman was killed when a wall collapsed on her in the town of Vilar de Barrio in the north-western region of Galicia, regional authorities said.

Branches

The storm, dubbed Xynthia, brought gusts of up to 150km/h in the red zone departments on the west coast of France, said local authorities.

About 800 000 households were without electricity in western France due to the storm early on Sunday, but only slight damage was reported initially, mostly due to falling branches.

Rail services were cancelled in Galicia as well as in the northern regions of Asturias, Cantabria, the Basque Country and parts of Castilla y Leon, where the storm left about 63 000 households without power.

Spanish meteorological agency Aemet placed all five regions under the alert level "red", the highest on its four-level scale.

In the Basque Country, where power was cut to some 30 000 homes, a construction crane crashed onto a three-storey house in the town of Abaltzisketa, causing major damage but no casualties, regional authorities said.

The storm developed in the Atlantic off the Portuguese island of Madeira, still reeling from the flash floods sparked by heavy rains that wrecked the centre of the capital Funchal and killed 42 people a week ago.