World

Storm kills at least 51 in Europe

A violent late-winter storm with fierce rain and hurricane-strength winds battered France, Spain and Portugal on Sunday, leaving at least 51 people dead.
A car damaged by a falling tree is seen near Arlanzon, Spain, early Sunday. Two passengers in the car were killed. ((Associated Press))
A violent late-winter storm with fierce rain and hurricane-strength winds battered France, Spain and Portugal on Sunday, leaving at least 51 people dead.

Many of the victims drowned in France, while others died when they were hit by parts of buildings or trees and branches that were ripped off by the wind.

At least a dozen people were missing and 59 were injured.

The storm, named Xynthia, was the worst in France since 1999 when 90 people died.

Nearly 900,000 people in France were without electricity. Rivers overflowed their banks in Brittany, and the threat of avalanches was high in the Pyrenees Mountains and the southern Alps because of the wind and wet snow.

In Paris, winds knocked over motorcycles and garbage was strewn around the streets of the capital. Flights were delayed and at least 100 flights were cancelled altogether at the two main Paris airports. A number of trains in western France were delayed due to flooded tracks.

Winds reached about 200 km/h on the summits of the Pyrenees and up to nearly 160 km/h along the Atlantic Coast. The storm hit the hardest in the Vendée and Charente-Maritime regions in southwestern France.

3 killed in Spain

As the storm moved eastward, parts of France along the border with Germany and Belgium were on alert for heavy rain and high winds.

In neighbouring Spain, the interior minister said three people were killed by hurricane-strength winds and heavy rainfall that lashed the country's northern regions over the weekend.

Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said the storm had been intense in certain regions and had caused the deaths of a woman in northwestern Ourense and of two people whose car was hit by a falling tree in Arlanzon just north of Madrid.

The national weather agency had warned that a violent cyclone depression had formed over the Atlantic Ocean and could cross areas bordering the Bay of Biscay.

Winds gusting up to 190 km/h had blown over the Canary Islands overnight Friday causing a crane to collapse on a building, knocking lampposts onto parked cars, and forcing flight cancellations.

Portugal's home affairs minister Rui Pereira said a child had been killed Saturday by a falling tree in the city of Paredes.

The 10-year-old had been playing ball near a church while waiting to go to a prayer meeting when a branch crushed him, Pereira said.

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