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.