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France struggles to restore power

BORDEAUX, Jan 25 – Hundreds of technicians from across Europe were Sunday trying to get France’s electricity and rail networks back on track after hurricane-force winds wreaked havoc in the southwest and killed four people.

Twelve helicopters flew over the storm-struck zone to help a thousand workers deployed from electricity grid operator ERDF’s rapid intervention force to try to restore power to the 1.1 million homes left in the dark.

More technicians from Germany, Britain and Portugal were on their way to join the operation, ERDF said.

High winds gusting up to 184 kilometres (114 miles) an hour were reported at the city of Perpignan during Saturday’s storm, bringing down trees onto roadways and rail lines across the region that borders Spain.

The tempest brought all rail traffic to a halt in the Midi-Pyrenees region.

Rail operator SNCF said it had deployed workers since late Saturday to lift fallen trees from tracks and try to get services back to running normally again.

It said services were slowly resuming Sunday but that the electricity cuts were hampering its work.

Four people died in southwestern France during Saturday’s storm, including two drivers who were killed by falling trees in the Landes department.

A 78-year-old man also died when he was hit by flying debris outside his home, local authorities said, while a 73-year-old women died in the southwestern Gironde department when the storm cut electricity powering her breathing machine.

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