A MASSIVE clean up operation is under way after the most violent storms in a decade hit the south west corner of France on Saturday.
The Landes was particularly hard hit with foresters saying around half of its famous pine trees have been toppled.
All across the south west of France houses were damaged, rail and airline services halted and troops have been mobilised to help in the repairs.
Winds of more than 170km/h battered the region thorughout Saturday (January 24) and Meteo France is warning that the coastal areas of Aquitaine face a risk of flooding due to heavy rains over the next 24-hours.
President Nicolas Sarkozy praised Meteo France and emergency services for working together in both preparing for the storms and quickly organising operations once the worst of the winds had abated.
At one point almost 1.7 million people were without electricity, with the scale of the repairs meaning EDF were bringing in staff from Germany and the UK to help, while water and telephone services were also badly affected.
But the most striking images of the storm is likely to be the destruction that has occurred in the pine forests of the Landes, with experts saying the damage is as bad as that caused by the storms of 1999.
Stormy, stormy night - The Duchess of Earl
It's a wonder sometimes how these old stone houses and buildings stay standing after all these years and storms.
Well, we lost electricity at around 10am yesterday morning, phone a little later and mobile phone signal a little later still. We covered the freezer in quilts and blankets, lit the wood burner and settled in for the long haul - we were in France during the aftermath of the 1999 hurricane, when it took three weeks to restore power to every household.
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