Deadly Hurricane-Force Winds Lash France

1:00pm UK, Sunday February 28, 2010

Huw Borland, Sky News Online

At least 15 people have been killed after France was battered by hurricane-force winds and heavy rain in a violent storm.

Some victims were hit by falling trees and branches while others drowned.

Gusts up to 100km an hour (60mph) lashed the country's northern regions and were sweeping east towards Belgium and Luxembourg.

Winds reached about 200kph (120 mph) on the summits of the Pyrenees Mountains and about 150kph (90 mph) along the Atlantic Coast.

The storm, named Xynthia, also cut off electricity to more than one million residents.

Local authorities said three people died on Saturday and another 12 on Sunday and they warned the toll could rise.

Three victims drowned in western France's Vendee region, police and rescuers said.

An 88-year-old woman was also found drowned in her home on the isle of Oleron, in the Charentes-Maritime further south.

Authorities reported that a man was killed by a falling tree in the southwest Pyrenees region.

Forecasters said the storm appeared less fierce than those that hit France in December 1999, in which 92 people were killed.

The latest storm had earlier lashed Spain and Portugal. In Spain, authorities said two men aged 51 and 41 died when the car they were travelling in was hit by another falling tree.

An 82-year-old woman was killed when a wall collapsed in the northwest Galicia region,officials said.

And a 10-year-old boy was killed by a falling branch in the northwest of Portugal.

:: Flooding is expected across the Britain with forecasters predicting more torrential downpours and stronger winds.

The east and south of England are set to bear the brunt of the weather.

It appears the weather turned East before it reached us, Hitting Normandy and Belgium, we had a lot of rain, and winds but not anything like what we expected, here's some photographs I took at about 14:00 CET.

I was standing in the sunshine watching this approach,