PARIS: At least 13 people were killed as the Atlantic storm "Xynthia" ravaged France, Spain and Portugal on Sunday, affecting other west European countries including the Netherlands.
The storm, landing in France late on Saturday, already left more than 1 million households without power.
State meteorologists have warned that Xynthia was the strongest storm since 1999 and is now raging toward inland France with a speed of between 110 and 120 km per hour.
Meteo France said winds were expected to reach up to 150 km per hour but would not break the record speed of 200 kilometers an hour as registered back in 1999.
Five of France's 95 departments or provinces were placed on red alert along the country's western coast for only the second time since the emergency system was introduced in 2001.
Red is the highest level of the four-level warning system.
Sixty-nine other departments were placed on orange alert.
Spain has placed all of the country's five regions under red alert.
Power was cut to some 90,000 homes in Spain where the country's fire service had to be called in on more than 4,200 occasions to remove fallen trees that had blocked traffic along highways and railways.
Storm Xynthia developed in the Atlantic off the Portuguese island Madeira where heavy rain-caused floods and mudslides had killed at least 42 people last week.