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Fierce storms in Europe kill 51, mostly in France

A tree brought down by a storm hit this car near Arlanzon, Spain, early Sunday. The two passengers of the car were killed.

Associated Press

A tree brought down by a storm hit this car near Arlanzon, Spain, early Sunday. The two passengers of the car were killed.

PARIS — A violent late winter storm with fierce rain and hurricane-strength winds ripped across western Europe on Sunday, battering France and four other countries, leaving at least 51 people dead.

The storm, named Xynthia, was the worst in France since 1999, when 90 people died. Prime Minister Francois Fillon held an emergency cabinet meeting and afterward called the storm a "national catastrophe."

Many of the at least 45 victims in France drowned, while others died when hit by parts of buildings or trees and branches that were ripped off by the wind. At least a dozen people were missing and 59 others were injured.

Three died in Spain, one was killed in Germany and a child was crushed to death in Portugal. The storm also hit Belgium, with one death reported. Although Britain was not hit, London's Thames Barrier — the capital's flood defense — was closed Sunday morning as a precaution.

Nearly 900,000 people in France were without electricity. Rivers overflowed their banks in Brittany, while high tides and enormous waves swamped Atlantic Ocean communities in the early morning hours.

Work at JFK airport expected to affect travel nationwide

Runway blues: Starting today, the main runway at New York's JFK is shutting down for repairs for four months. That means more air travel delays, which could spread throughout the United States and internationally. Among the 10 most traveled destinations from JFK (by number of passengers) are Orlando, London, Paris and Frankfurt.

Fare game: For passengers coming in and out of JFK, the shutdown also means higher ticket prices.

Plane plans: Airlines aren't going to add flights in April and May like they normally do when travel picks up. JetBlue, Delta and American are all holding their winter schedules for JFK until July. For JetBlue, the biggest carrier at the airport, that means an average of 150 departures compared with a normal summer of 180.

Fierce storms in Europe kill 51, mostly in France 02/28/10 [Last modified: Sunday, February 28, 2010 9:38pm]

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