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Violent winter storm whips eastern Europe, killing over 50

10:39 PM
Violent winter storm whips eastern Europe, killing over 50

The violent winter storm, dubbed as "Xynthia," has lashed most eastern European countries as of Sunday with heavy rain and strong gust, leaving over 50 deaths and massive devastation on its routes. Developed in the Atlantic off the Portuguese island Madeira, storm Xynthia landed on France's western coast late Saturday after causing three deaths in Spain, and went on to Germany via Belgium on Sunday afternoon. France, the worst hit country, recorded at least 45 victims and several disappearances, mainly in Vandee and Charente-Maritime, the two western coastal departments which registered the biggest toll. Most victims died from drowning or impacts from falling trees and buildings. French President Nicolas Sarkozy is going to visit the worst hit areas on Monday morning, the presidential office said. Over 500,000 households remained in the dark and power supply is not expected to resume at least three days later, said the national power company Electricity of France. Paris was also affected by the storm as the gust speeded up to over 100 km per hour in the day. Air France announced Sunday the cancellation of more than 100 flights at the Paris-Charles de Gaulle international airport as well as some delays and diversions. The state-run railway company SNCF also warned of massive delays on lines linking western districts.

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon called the storm a "national disaster" after holding an emergency cabinet meeting coordinating rescue efforts in the wake of the storm. French Interior Minister Brice Hortfeux said hundreds of soldiers and thousands of firefighters have been mobilized to help residents in the western districts besieged by floods with drainage operations. French state meteorologists have warned that Xynthia was the strongest storm since 1999, when 90 people died. The state meteorology broadcaster maintained two departments, Finistere and Morbihan, on orange alert in its latest statement late Sunday as they were still threatened by uprising floods. Moving to the northeast of Europe, the fierce storm killed one man in southern Belgium and brought down some electricity lines. According to German official data, four people were killed in Germany as their cars were struck by trees dragged down by the gust. The Frankfurt airport had to cancel at least 200 flights due to sweeping winds up to 130 km per hour and the city's central train station was forced to close temporarily. A woman in England was reportedly killed in her car by surging floods. Before landing on France, Xynthia had already caused three deaths in Spain and one in Portugal.

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