Rescuers in France are still looking for victims of Sunday’s violent storms that have killed more than 50 people across Europe.
The French Atlantic coast bore the brunt of Storm Xynthia. Of the 48 deaths confirmed in France, most were caused by drowning or falling trees. Dozens of people are still reported missing.
A combination of 160-kilometre per hour winds and a high tide smashed sea walls, turning the coastal Vendée region into a flood zone. Eye witnesses described how single storey houses were submerged in water within minutes in the middle of the night. Many of the victims were elderly people caught off guard while they slept.
President Sarkozy has visited the area, while prime minister Francois Fillon has declared a national disaster and announced a one million euro emergency fund.
There was also massive material damage from the Pyrenees in the south of France to Brittany in the north.
Storm Xynthia has claimed lives throughout its eastward passage across Europe: a young boy was killed by a tree in Portugal, two men died when a tree crushed their car in Spain, a Belgian man in his sixties died while gardening and the press in Germany are reporting at least six deaths there.
The winds and torrential rain have also led to severe disruption to transport, with hundreds of flights cancelled and roads closed across the continent.