A powerful Atlantic storm, named Xynthia, struck along the western coast of Europe Saturday night and most of Sunday, leaving at least 50 people dead in its wake. The storm packed sustained winds over 140 kmh (87.5 mph) as well as torrential rains. France was the hardest hit by the storm with 45 reported deaths, mainly due to drowning, falling masonry and trees.
The storm coincided with unusually high tides, which, along with the heavy rain, created a tidal surge and huge waves that flooded many communities along the country’s west coast from the Spanish border, all the way north to Normandy and Brittany. Eyewitnesses on French television reported that the water rose extremely fast – in some case over 1.5 meters (around 4.5 feet) in minutes.
As Xynthia swept north along the coast more damage and several deaths were reported in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany.
Flood waters still cover portions of many French cities and towns. The government has declared a national emergency in the area, which will make funds available for clean up and rebuilding, as well as extending the period for filing a claim on homeowners’ policies from 5 to 10 days.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy will visit the stricken areas today. Meanwhile crews are struggling to restore electricity to over a million homes and buildings caused by downed power lines.
Source: news reports
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