hurricane-katrina.jpgHurricane-force winds, surging seas and driving rain lashed Western Europe yesterday, leaving at least 22 people dead and more than one million households without power.

Dubbed “xynthia”, the Atlantic storm crashed against the western coasts of France and Spain overnight, bringing with it a band of foul weather stretching from Portugal to the Netherlands.

Gusts of up to 150 km / per hr and 8m waves battered the western coast of France, spreading floods inland and sending residents scurrying onto rooftops.

Prefect Jean Jacques Brot, the Chief Government Officer in the low-lying vendee region, where flood waters in some coastal towns reached 1,5 metres, said that eight people drowned and others were missing in his area.

He said five more people drowned further South in Charente-Maritime, and air sea rescue and police helicopters are trying to locate marooned flood victims.