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Storm batters France, Christmas flights cancelled

PARIS/LONDON--Powerful winds and torrential rain swept southern France on Wednesday, grounding flights and cutting off power to tens of thousands of homes.

About 120,000 homes across the country were without electricity on Christmas Day due to ruptured power lines and widespread flooding in the northwestern Brittany region, said France's ERDF power distributor.

The international airport at Nice was shut, with all incoming and outgoing flights cancelled until at least 1200 GMT due to poor visibility on the runway, a spokesman said.

Hurricane-force winds lashed France and Britain on Tuesday, causing five deaths in Britain and one in France. Heavy downpours led to cancellations of rail, flight and ferry services. Thousands of Britons woke up to flooding and power cuts on Wednesday.

The storm had subsided in the north of France on Wednesday but continued to batter southeastern France and the Mediterranean coastline, though winds were less powerful.

Meteo France, the national weather office, maintained an “Orange” alert level for weather-related danger — its second-highest — in parts of Brittany and southeastern France but declared other regions mostly calm.

It warned of powerful gusts in the Pyrenees mountain range and the possibility of high waves along the Mediterranean coast.

Britain hit by floods, power cuts at Christmas

Tens of thousands of Britons will remain without electricity on Christmas Day after torrential rainfall flooded homes and hurricane-force winds battered the country.

Two severe flood alerts are in force along with nearly 300 secondary warnings, largely across southern and central England, Britain's environment agency said on Wednesday.

Around 50,000 homes are likely to remain without power throughout Christmas Day according to the Energy Networks Association which represents wire and pipe companies.

Tens of thousands of people have also had their power cut off in France where high winds and heavy rain were still sweeping across the south of the country.

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A plane sits in floodwater near submerged warning signs following heavy rain, at Redhill Aerodrome in Surrey, England, Tuesday, Dec. 24. (AP)

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