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Environment

Storms cut power to 55,000 homes in west, north France

media Waves crash near the Luno on a seawall off the beach in Anglet Reuters/Regis Duvignau

Winds of up to 120 kilometres cut off power to some 55,000 households and rain flooded shops and homes in north and west France overnight Thursday. The storms, which started in mid-December, are set to continue for at least a week.

Coming on the heels of storm Petra, storm Qumaira has brought gale-force windsto 36 departments north of a diaganol from Charente-Maritime in the west to the Ardennes in the east.

Worst hit was Brittany, France's far west, which has suffered the worst effects of a series of storms for over a month.

There two towns, Quimper and Morlaix, were flooded with over 100 shops and dozens of homes affected by waters as high as 60 centimetres.

Waves break on the beach at Biarritz on the southern Atlantic Coast Reuters/Regis Duvignau

Thousands of homes suffered power cuts, 25,000 in the Loire, 12,000 in Normandy and 10,000 in the Paris region.

Apart from the flooding, damage to property was not as bad as expected, mostly limited to fallen trees blocking roads.

Part of the Luno cargo ship on the seawall at Anglet Reuters/Regis Duvignau

The freighter Luno, which ran aground off the south-western port of Bayonne on Wednesday, has broken into three and leaked 20 tonnes of oil into the Bay of Biscay.

The gales are expected to move into Belgium about midday on Friday but forecasters expected more storms to follow for at least a week.

Interactive map of France

Although France has not suffered as badly as Britain, five storms have hit its west coast since 15 December, causing giant waves, floods and power cuts and leaving land waterlogged.

The succession of storms is due to an area of low pressure in the north Atlantic and a strong anti-cyclone moving towards the Azores islands on the south, leaving the Atlantinc open to depressions.

The situation is expected to last for at least another week.

The weather has not been as bad as in 1999, however, when two exceptionally bad storms brought winds of 150-160 kilometres per hour.

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