Storm Elsa batters parts of Europe, five dead

Gusts from the storm reached 120 kilometres an hour in Saint-Etienne, near Lyon, causing a roof to be ripped from a building

Violent winds and torrential rain battered Spain, Portugal and France overnight leaving at least five people dead, rescuers said Friday, as the region braced for another storm.

In Portugal, one man died in a road accident caused by a falling tree 50 kilometres (30 miles) south of Lisbon as Storm Elsa hit, while another was killed when a house collapsed in the central town of Viseu.

A third man was also missing in the same area with rescuers fearing he had been swept away while driving his tractor near a flooded river.

In Spain, a similar accident claimed the life of a man near the northern city of Leon, who died when he fell into a river while driving his tractor, the emergency services said.

Two others died on Thursday -- one in a landslide in the northern mountains of Asturias where the winds reached 160 kilometres per hour (100 miles per hour) while another was crushed by a falling wall in the northwestern city of Santiago de Compostela.

Raging winds left 140,000 homes without electricity in southern and eastern France, ripping off roofs and blowing down trees and billboards onto power lines, officials said.

No injuries were reported but rescue services and maintenance crews were deployed across the Auvergne, Bourgogne and Massif Central regions to clear roads and instal plastic sheeting on damaged buildings.

Gusts from Storm Elsa reached 120 kilometres an hour in Saint-Etienne, near Lyon, where 17 people had to be evacuated when the roof of a building was torn off, and several schools were closed in the Loire valley.

Although Storm Elsa had largely passed over by Friday morning, shipping links between Morocco and Spain in the Strait of Gibraltar remained suspended over weather concerns.

But the calm was not expected to last with Storm Fabien barrelling towards the region, bringing more high winds and torrential rain to Spain, Portugal and western France.

The Meteo France weather service has issued high wind alerts and warned of potential flooding from heavy rains, and avalanche alerts for some parts of the Alps.

The storm came less than a week after gale force winds and flooding left three people dead in southern France and cut power to around 400,000 homes.

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