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Visiting France

Storm spoils Christmas for thousands of French families

media Flooding in the Brittany town of Morlaix on Tuesday AFP

Thousands of French families celebrated the arrival of Christmas in the dark this year after a powerful storm cut off power to their homes. The high winds and torrential rains hit the Alps and the Pyrenees mountains on Wednesday after causing havoc in the north-west on Tuesday.

The French traditionally sit down to their Christmas meal late on Christmas Eve, ready to toast the arrival of Christmas Day at midnight.

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This year 82,000 families had to eat their meals by candlelight, if they had gas cookers on which to cook them, thanks to Storm Dirk, which blew down power lines and toppled trees onto cables and roads and flooded the centre of one Brittany town.

Shops in the centre of Morlaix were flooded, the town's mayor Agnès Lebrun, who is also an MEP, told RFI.

"Their stocks were full," she added, pointing out that 24 December would usually have been a big sales day. "This means serious damage and I have to say that it was so sudden and brutal that we didn't have the time protect these goods, which have been ruined."

The storm headed south-east down the Rhone Valley towards the Alps on Tuesday night.

Incoming flights were suspended at Nice Côte d'Azur airport on Wednesday morning, although they were expected to resume at about 1.00pm.

Weather forecasters launched an alert in five departments in ther region, warning of heavy rain and snowfall over 50 centimetres deep over 1,700 metres altitude.

On Tuesday several ski stations in the Pyrenees, in the south-west, were forced to close by winds reaching 228 kilometres per hour.

In Paris winds of 144 kilometres per hour were recorded on the Eiffel Tower.

Six people have died in the storms that have hit much of northern Europe, five in the UK and one in France.

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