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Xynthia was a violent European windstorm which crossed Western Europe between 27 February and 1 March 2010. It reached a minimum pressure of 967 mb on 27 February. In France—where it was described by the civil defence as the most violent since Lothar and Martin in December 1999—at least 51 people were killed, with 12 more said to be missing. A further six people were killed in Germany, three in Spain, one in Portugal, one in Belgium and another one in England. Most of the deaths in France occurred when a powerful storm surge topped by battering waves up to 7.5 m (25 ft) high, hitting at high tide, smashed through the sea wall off the coastal town of L'Aiguillon-sur-Mer. A mobile home park built close to the sea wall was particularly hard-hit. The sea wall was about two hundred years old, built in the time of Napoleon; critics said that situating a mobile home park so close to the sea wall showed poor coastal development practices. The storm cut power to over a million homes in France and a million customers in Portugal lost power.

The storm may have been exacerbated by the spread of the volcanic cloud of the Soufriere Hills eruption on February 11, 2010 about 16 days earlier.


Cyclone Xynthia
Formed 26/2/10
Dissipated 1/3/10
Highest winds 240 km/h
Lowest pressure 967 hPa
Damage €3 billion

Areas affected

Portugal, Spain, France, Belgium, Denmark, England, Germany, Poland

Effects

One million homes were left without power in western France. In the Hautes-Pyrénées, falling trees damaged vehicles, the roofs of houses and barns were blown away, and rocks were falling onto the road. In the département of Vendée, cities like La Faute-sur-Mer, L'Aiguillon-sur-Mer, La Tranche-sur-Mer were flooded with water levels reaching up to 1.5 metres (4 ft 11 in). Flooding affected parts of the Charente-Maritime département (Suburbs of La Rochelle, cities of Fouras, Marennes,Châtelaillon as well as Réand Oléron Island) where high speed wind were registered (160 km/h).


Flooded railway tracks led to railway delays in France and the rail services in northern Spain were also severely affected. 70 flights from Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport were cancelled by Air France.

The storm also caused damage in Portugal and Spain. The strongest wind gust recorded in Portugal was 166 km/h (103 mph) while in Spain a gust of 228 km/h (142 mph) was recorded. In France a 241 km/h (150 mph) wind gust was recorded at the Pic du Midi.

On March 11, 2010, catastrophe risk modeling firm EQECAT estimated wind losses for affected countries (not including Portugal and Spain) as follows: Mean damage: €1.3 billion (approximately $1.8 billion USD); Mean insured gross loss: €994 million (approximately $1.4 billion USD).

On April 12, 2010, PERILS AG, an independent loss aggregator, disclosed its initial loss estimate for Xynthia of EUR 1.28bn. The second loss estimate will be published on 28 May 2010.

Response

Météo-France issued its second highest warning (orange) for 27 February and early 28 February for Andorra, Ain, Ariège, Cantal, Finistère, Haute-Garonne, Gironde, Isère, Loire, Haute-Loire and Hautes-Pyrénées. It issued its highest warning level (red) for the Charente-Maritime, Vendée, Deux-Sèvres and Vienne.

Helicopters were sent to rescue people on their roofs following flooding in Charente-Maritime and Vendée, France. An emergency meeting was held on 28 February by French Premier François Fillon following the effects in France.

The Portuguese Institute of Meteorology issued red warnings for the northern parts of the country for winds up to 150 km/hr, the rest of the country being with orange warnings for wind gusts up to 120 km/hr.

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