Major storms batter Europe

Monday, March 1, 2010

Destruction caused by Xynthia.
Image: Wanderlinse.

A major storm system has swept through Spain, Portugal, and France over the weekend, killing more than 50 people, and leaving nearly a million without power.

The storm system, named Xynthia, has moved from Portugal north through Spain and coastal France, and is expected to reach northern Europe, including Denmark, by Sunday evening. According the French Interior Ministry, at least 47 people have been killed in France alone, with around 60 injured. Additionally, five are dead in Germany, three are dead in Spain, and one dead in each of Portugal, Belgium, and England. French Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux said that the death toll would likely rise, with around 30 people still missing.

According to the French utility EDF, nearly a million homes in France are without power, largely around Brittany and central France. Full restoration of power is not expected until Wednesday. Several towns on the French coast have been flooded, with more than a meter of water on the streets in some areas. The storm produced winds upward of 100 mph and waves up to 26 feet high. Effects of the storm reached inland to Paris, where nearly 100 flights were canceled and a terminal of Charles de Gaulle Airport was severely damaged. Rail transport was also affected, with tracks flooded in both Spain and France.

In the United Kingdom, flood warnings have been issued for most of Britain, and warnings for severe flooding that was possibly life-threatening were issued for parts of Cambridgeshire. In London, barriers on the Thames River were raised in order to reduce the potential for flooding. The storm was expected to affect southern regions of the country as it moved northeast towards Scandinavia.

In a statement, French president Nicolas Sarkozy expressed his condolences to those affected, and sent France's interior minister to the areas most affected to co-ordinate a response. According to Prime Minister Fillon, the storms were a "national catastrophe." On Monday, the French government officially declared the storms a national disaster, which will allow funds to be released to help affected areas rebuild.