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Fierce winds leave one dead, thousands without power in France

Strong winds and heavy rains pushed the Garonne river over its banks in Bordeaux, southwest France, on Friday. (AFP Photo/NICOLAS TUCAT)

Bordeaux (AFP) - One person has died in southern France and thousands of homes were left without power on Friday after strong winds swept across Atlantic coastal regions, gusting at times to 140 km/h (85 mph), officials said.

Rescue services said a 70-year-old man died in the Basque Country near Ilharre when his vehicle struck a tree that had fallen into the road during the storms.

Five others were injured, two seriously, when trees fell on their vehicles.

Grid operator Enedis said about 400,000 homes were left without electricity overnight, and 170,000 were still without service by Friday afternoon.

The high winds ripped off part of the roof of a school in the Pyrenees village of Saint-Beat, though no injuries were reported.

Traffic was snarled as trees and other debris were strewn across roads in 14 departments which had been placed on alert for high winds and flooding on Thursday. France has 95 mainland departments and five overseas ones.

Nine departments, mainly in the Occitanie region closer to the Mediterranean and on the island of Corsica, were still on alert Friday, according to weather service Meteo France, severely disrupting maritime travel as well as flights to Corsica.

Meteo France warned that the winds posed a heightened avalanche risk in the Alps over the next 24 hours, in particular in the popular skiing departments of Isere and Savoie.

Although the winds are forecast to ease later Friday, Meteo France said it expected them to intensify again into the weekend.

In the popular surfing towns of Biarritz and Anglet, authorities closed beaches Friday on expectations of dangerous waves during the afternoon high tide.

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