A lorry driver died when a tree fell on his truck as he drove in the Aisne department in the early hours of today (November 2) as storm Ciaran hit France with full force, it has been confirmed.
A second death, of a 70-year old man, was recorded in Le Havre due to the storm. He was closing his shutters when a gust of wind blew him over, announced the local public prosecutor.
Strong winds began to batter France’s northern and western coasts on Wednesday evening, continuing overnight and causing extensive damage to homes. Many roads remain blocked by fallen trees.
The last department to remain on red alert (Manche, Normandy) saw its warning for strong gales lifted at 10:00.
A record-breaking 193 km/h wind was recorded overnight in nearby Brittany.
Other departments in the north-west are facing multiple tier-three orange alerts.
Residents in affected areas are being advised to stay indoors,
Over one million households in the north-west are currently without electricity due to power cuts caused by the storm.
Driver dies, others warned against using roads
The death of a truck driver near Ressons-le-Long, Aisne was announced just before 08:00 today by Transport Minister Clément Beaune.
The man was killed by a falling tree at around 04:30 near the Belgian border. Aisne is currently facing a tier-two warning for strong winds, as is most of France.
The driver was the only person injured in the accident.
Tempête Ciaran ➡️ Clément Beaune "repasse un message de vigilance. Il y a des interdictions de circulation qui demeurent". "Il y a eu cette nuit un chauffeur routier qui est décédé dans l'Aisne, avec un arbre qui serait tombé sur le camion. Il y a des dangers très forts." pic.twitter.com/HhqaWWZ1ll— franceinfo (@franceinfo) November 2, 2023
The minister reiterated that traffic bans continue in certain departments such as Finistère, and advised drivers to stay off of the roads until the storm is over elsewhere.
"Even in departments that are not on red alert, there are very high risks and dangers," said Mr Beaune.
Local trains in five regions - Brittany, Normandy, Centre-Val de Loire, Pays de la Loire, and Hauts de France - are cancelled, and only direct TGV services between Paris and Lille/Rennes are running.
Many cross Channel ferry services have also been cancelled.
Millions without electricity, people evacuated
Over a million households were left without electricity after the storm wiped out electrical infrastructure. Almost 800,000 were situated in Brittany but up to 125,000 homes in the Manche department were also affected.
Enedis, which manages the National electric grid in France, said up to 3,000 staff members were on hand to restore power as quickly as possible, however they were unable to start work during the morning due to the storm's ferocity.
An update by the company in the afternoon stated around 800,000 homes were still without electricty.
Elsewhere, over 1,300 people have been evacuated, announced Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin.
Most of these were people staying in camping sites and holiday parks in near the English Channel and Breton coastlines, however some homes in Brest were also evacuated after a crane was torn in two by the winds.
“It is the first time,” a crane has been damaged in the city by a storm, said an unnamed worker from the local authorities.
“It’s exceptional… For the moment, we don't know what happened, it's still too early to say,” he added.
You can see a video of the crane below:
Sous la tempête Ciarán, une grue s'est en partie brisée à Brest dans le Finistère cette nuit ! La ville a battu son record absolu de vent avec 156 km/h ! (© Patrick Mézard) pic.twitter.com/6i7NJu6vdF— Météo Express (@MeteoExpress) November 2, 2023
Storm will continue throughout day
The highest wind level from the storm, the record-breaking 193 km/h, was recorded in Finistère (Brittany) around 04:00.
However, winds of up to 170 km/h are still being recorded around the coast in Normandy. Even areas further inland are seeing winds with a speed of 100 km/h or more.
Météo France will update the warning levels in impacted departments as the storm progresses and it recommends keeping up to date with warnings on its official website.
People in the department are advised to remain indoors whilst the warning is in place.
“I invite the people of Manche to stay at home and to avoid the coast,” said the department’s prefect Xavier Brunetière.
“We have seen much more sustained activity on the part of the emergency and security services. There have been more than 200 call outs from the fire brigade,” he added.
The storm is set to lessen in ferocity by midday, although the damage – such as to electrical infrastructure, and other risks such as falling trees – will impact local residents for some time.