At least one person has died and more than a million households were left without electricity in France on Thursday morning as Storm Ciaran struck western Europe overnight, bringing some of the highest wind speeds the region has witnessed in decades.
In France, the north-west coast was hit by violent gales as wind speeds of up to 207 km/h were recorded on the Pointe du Raz, in the Finistère department in Brittany.
The storm has left 1.2 million homes without electricity in France, 780 000 of which are located in Brittany, energy provider Enedis said Thursday morning.
Transport Minister Clément Beaune told Franceinfo radio on Thursday that a truck driver had died in the Aisne department northeast of Paris when a tree fell on his truck.
“This shows that even in regions that are not on red alert, there is a very high risk on the road,” Beaune said.
Some 16 people have been injured by the storm in France including seven firefighters, the interior ministry said in a statement on Thursday.
The storm is forecast to move inland on Thursday. A total of 31 French departments have been placed on “orange alert” for dangerous weather.
Waves of eight to ten metres are expected in certain areas along the Atlantic. A “violent wind” warning is in place in Paris.
Widespread travel disruption is expected until Friday morning, with multiple airports and train lines closed throughout France.
In Cornwall in southern England, large waves powered by winds of 135 km/hour crashed along the coastline on Thursday morning, while hundreds of schools across the region were closed.
On the Channel Island of Jersey, residents had to be evacuated to hotels overnight as wind gusts of up to 164 km/hour damaged homes, according to local media.
Eurostar, which operates trains between the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany, and the UK, warned that traffic “could be disrupted” and advised travellers to postpone journeys if possible. Domestic rail and ferry services were also disrupted.
The effects of the storm were felt as far south as Spain and Portugal, where several regions were on red alert, fallen trees caused power cuts and train services were disrupted.
Roosmarijn Knol, weather forecaster for Dutch public broadcaster NOS, said the timing of the storm was important.
“Due to a warm autumn with a lot of rain, trees still have their leaves, and the ground is as wet as a sponge,” Knol said. “Therefore, especially weak trees have a good chance of falling over. That is a big difference from an autumn storm at, say, the end of November, when all the leaves have already fallen.”
(FRANCE 24 with AFP and Reuters)