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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 December, 2004, 20:10 GMT
Storms hit thousands in Finland
Tens of thousands of people in Finland face a cold and dark Christmas after severe storms left much of the country without power.

Power lines were cut and roofs blew off homes as southern and western Finland were hit by 100km/h (60mph) winds.

Waves up to 14m high forced ports to close, and three people died when high winds blew traffic off the road.

Finland, which celebrates Christmas on 24 December, relies on electricity for light and heating during long winters.

At least 20,000 people remained without power on Thursday, with some reports claiming up to 40,000 homes were affected.

The storm disrupted travel on the Finland-Russia border, where Christmas holidaymakers were forced to queue for up to 30km (18 miles) to reach their destinations.

High water flooded Market Square in the Finnish capital, Helsinki, on Wednesday evening, Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat reported.

New weather front

Weather forecasters predicted that more heavy weather would arrive in Finland and hit the south-western coast on Thursday evening.

Weather throughout Friday was expected to remain "extremely bad", forecasters said.

"News of a new storm brewing means more problems for us. We already have a snow load that is pretty bad," said Esko Poikela, an official at Fortum, Finland's largest energy company.

"Luckily, it's not as bad as this every year. This is no fun for anyone."


SEE ALSO:
Country profile: Finland
16 Nov 04 |  Country profiles


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