French woman left in coma as northwest Europe battered by high winds

Members of the Paris Fire Brigade providing first aid to a person injured after strong winds blew down a billboard in Paris, France, on Tuesday.
Members of the Paris Fire Brigade providing first aid to a person injured after strong winds blew down a billboard in Paris, France, on Tuesday.PHOTO: EPA
Waves crash against a lighthouse as the wind blows at around 100 kph in Boulogne-sur-Mer, northern France on Sunday.
Waves crash against a lighthouse as the wind blows at around 100 kph in Boulogne-sur-Mer, northern France on Sunday. PHOTO: REUTERS
A massive wave crashes on the protecting wall at the fishing harbour in Pornic, France.
A massive wave crashes on the protecting wall at the fishing harbour in Pornic, France. PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS (AFP) - High winds buffeted northwestern Europe on Monday, leaving one woman in France in a coma after she was hit by an advertising hoarding.

In Britain, a search was under way for an animal protection officer who went missing after rescuing sea birds stranded on rocks near Penzance in southwest England on Sunday.

Rail and ferry services in southern England and Wales were disrupted as wind speeds reached nearly 155 kilometres per hour, while flood warnings were issued in more than 50 areas.

In Germany, storms forced carnival organisers to cancel "Rose Monday" parades in the western cities of Duesseldorf and Mainz and scale back festivities in Cologne, the traditional home of the annual fancy dress celebrations.

In Paris, a woman in her early 20s was left fighting for her life after she was hit by a roadside hoarding that had been dislodged by high winds, police said.

A man was left with a broken leg in the same incident.

France's Atlantic coast was lashed by powerful waves and authorities in resorts such as Biarritz took hasty measures to try to prevent the sea reaching the town.

Electricity was cut to 5,000 homes in northern France.

"The big northwestern swell has reached the Brittany shores and the Gulf of Gascony as expected," the French weather service said in a statement.

The British coastguard was helping in the search for Mike Reid, 54, who was called out to help save around 30 gannets in wind-lashed Cornwall on Sunday but has not been seen since then.

More than 15,000 homes in Britain were left without power and at least 5,000 more properties suffered blackouts in Ireland.

Britain's Environment Agency told residents of southern England to take "immediate action" as forecasters predicted up to 40 millimetres of rain in some areas.

Roads agency Highways England issued a severe weather alert for high-sided vehicles and motorbikes due to the high winds.

In Germany, costumed revellers in Cologne braved rain to celebrate carnival, held under tight security to prevent attacks or a repeat of the mass sexual assaults that marred the city's New Year celebrations.

However, forecasts of high winds with gusts of 85 to 100 kilometres per hour led the Rhine River city to ban large floats, signs and flags as well as the use of horses.

Several German forecasters said later the warnings had been overstated and no major damage was done by the storms.