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Record winds in France as Storm Ciarán batters western Europe

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Recording-breaking winds in France and across much of western Europe have left at least five people dead and injured several others as Storm Ciarán charged through the continent.

The storm plunged vast numbers into darkness, devastating homes and causing travel mayhem in several countries.

Winds of more than 118mph battered the northern tip of France’s Atlantic coast, uprooting trees and blowing out windows.

A truck driver was killed when his vehicle was hit by a tree in northern France’s inland region of Aisne, said transport minister Clement Beaune.

Another person has been badly injured at a university in the northern city of Roubaix, and 15 more were hurt around western and northern France, authorities announced. Seven of the injured were emergency workers.

Dutch airline KLM scrapped all flights leaving and arriving in the Netherlands from the early afternoon until the end of the day, citing the high sustained wind speeds and powerful gusts expected in the country.

Huge waves slammed into French ports and shorelines, as wind flattened street signs and ripped off roofing. Felled trees blocked roads around western France, according to Associated Press reporters and images on French media and social networks.

Some 1.2 million French households were left without electricity on Thursday, electrical utility Enedis announced in a statement.

That includes about half of the homes in Brittany, the Atlantic peninsula hardest hit by Ciarán. Enedis said it would deploy 3,000 workers to restore power when conditions allowed.

The wind reached up to 96mph on the Normandy coast and up to 90mph inland. Fishing crews put their livelihoods on hold and stayed ashore. Local authorities closed forests, parks and beachfronts in some regions.

Trees were brought down across France, including in Brittany

Local trains were cancelled across a swathe of western France, and all roads in the Finistere region of Brittany were closed on Thursday morning. Mr Beaune urged people to avoid driving and exercise caution when travelling across areas with weather warnings.

“We see how roads can be fatal in these circumstances,” he told broadcaster France-Info.

In Spain, where the storm battered much of the country with heavy rain and gale-force winds, emergency services in Madrid said a woman died on Thursday after a tree fell on her. Three other people were slightly injured in the incident in city centre street.

Parks in the capital and other cities were closed and several trains and flights were cancelled.

One person died in central Ghent, Belgium, when a tree fell on them in a park. Local and national authorities warned residents not to get close to green spaces for fear of crashing trees. Another person was injured during the same incident.

Belgian media also reported that in the port city of Antwerp, one man was seriously injured when a wall collapsed under the pressure from the relentless high winds.

A storm warning was issued for the North Sea coast in Germany and a warning of high winds for part of the Baltic Sea coast. The fire service said that a young woman was fatally injured by a falling tree in Rammelsberg, in the Harz mountains in northern Germany.

Thousands were also without power in the UK. Sharp gusts blew roofs off buildings and toppled trees. Some had to evacuate their homes and seek refuge in hotels as Ciarán pummelled the south of England.

Hundreds of schools stayed closed in the south-west England coastal communities of Cornwall and Devon, as downed trees and flooding hindered morning commutes all across the South East.

Rail companies urged commuters to work from home if possible because of possible falling trees and debris on the tracks.

P&O Ferries said tourist traffic was being sent away from the Port of Dover, which has suspended sailings. The roof of a lorry was torn off in the town, local police said, while a major road has been partly closed for public safety.

The Met Office, the government weather agency, said that the mean sea level pressure reading for England and Wales in November is the lowest ever, breaking a record which had stood since 1916.

In the Channel Islands, winds of more than 100mph smashed windows, damaged cars and tore roofs from buildings. Flights from airports on the islands of Jersey, Guernsey and Alderney were cancelled.

Dutch media reported that several people had been hit by falling trees in different parts of the Netherlands, with one person killed in the southern town of Venray.

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