February 28, 2010 / 12:44 PM / 10 years ago

Violent storms kill at least 15 in France

Residents of La Faute sur Mer in western France are evacuated from a flooded area by rescue workers after severe storms swept through much of France February 28, 2010. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

PARIS (Reuters) - Violent storms swept through France over the weekend, killing at least 15 people, officials said.

Local authorities said three people died on Saturday and another 12 on Sunday and warned the toll could rise. Some drowned while others were hit by falling trees and branches.

South-west coastal regions of France, Vendee and Charente Maritime, were among those worst affected.

The storm also cut off electricity to more than 1 million residents said ErDF, the distribution arm of French energy group EDF. The cuts centered on Brittany and central France.

Weather forecasters said the storm, named Xynthia, had headed to France’s north-east and would then hit Belgium and Luxembourg.

Gusts of wind reaching 100 km (60 miles) per hour had already battered France’s northern regions by 1207 GMT (7:07 a.m. EST), Meteo France said on its website.

But it said the storms appeared less fierce than those that hit France in December 1999, in which 92 people were killed.

French Economy Minister Christine Lagarde on Sunday reminded insurers that multi-risk residence insurance covered damage caused by strong winds and called for the speedy processing of storm-related claims.

Reporting by Claude Canellas, Guillaume Frouin and Astrid Wendlandt; editing by Philippa Fletcher

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