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Page last updated at 09:53 GMT, Tuesday, 10 February 2009

High winds hit north-west France

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High winds whip through north-west France

Winds of up to 140km/h (87mph) have hit northern and western France, disrupting power supplies and transport routes.

Electricity to some 600,000 households across the north of the country has been cut by power-line damage.

Both main airports serving Paris -Charles de Gaulle and Orly - were closed for the first time in 34 years.

They were reopened after 12 hours, but Air France said it had cancelled 210 flights, and booked more than 2,000 hotel rooms for stranded passengers.

Ferry services between Brittany, in the far north-west, and nearby islands have been suspended, operators Oceane and Penn Ar Bedd said.

Brittany Ferries also postponed the inaugural sailing on Tuesday of its service from Roscoff to Plymouth, in southern England.

The French navy has put three rescue vessels on stand-by to help any shipping in difficulty. Sand bags have been deployed on seafronts exposed to possible flooding.

The north-east of France was put on "orange alert" as the storm system moved east on Tuesday morning, while the warning was lifted in Brittany.

Heavy rain was forecast further south, with Gironde on the Atlantic coast warned of possible flooding.

Flood alert

In Paris, travellers were asked not to head to the city's airports, which closed at 2000 (1900GMT) on Monday.

Flights had been disrupted for two hours before the closures. Charles de Gaulle is one the busiest airports in Europe.

Forecasters predicted, however, that the storm would not be as bad as the one that lashed France and Spain on 24 January, leaving 11 dead and causing widespread damage.

The storm is also battering southern England, where heavy rain has left many councils on "full alert" in preparation for floods.

In Somerset, in the south-west, 20 people stranded in flood water were rescued from their cars.

The UK saw the heaviest snowfall for 18 years last week and forecasters warn more snow is on the way over parts of Wales and the Midlands.

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