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Power cut to a million homes by severe gales

GALES battered southwest France yesterday, bringing down power lines and cutting electricity supplies to nearly one million homes, authorities said.

Winds of up to 173 kilometers an hour closed several airports, including Bordeaux, and halted rail traffic.

Dozens of roads were blocked by fallen trees and debris.

Authorities urged residents of the southwest region to stay at home for their own safety. No casualties were reported.

"The number of clients who are cut off from the grid is rising from minute to minute as the storm moves eastwards," said Michel Francony, president of power distributor Electricite Reseau Distribution France.

"There are close to one million clients cut off at this point," he said, adding that 1,000 ERDF workers had been mobilized to restore supplies but had trouble reaching affected areas because of heavily blocked roads.

Etienne Guyot, the prefect of Landes administrative area on the southwestern Atlantic coast, said winds of up to 173km an hour had been measured on the coast and up to 140km an hour inland at Mont de Marsan.

The weather drew comparisons with a huge storm in 1999, when nearly 4 million people were left without electricity and 88 people were killed in France.


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