Gale-force winds battered France's southwestern Atlantic coast this morning, leaving more than quarter of million homes without power, according to Enedis, the body in charge of the national electricity grid.

National weather agency Meteo France said winds reaching speeds of up to 148km/hr had battered the coast and warned that in some places they could even reach 160km/hr.

Three western regions were put on red alert as the storm felled trees and brought down powerlines, cutting off roads, although there were no immediate reports of casualties.

Enedis said that power had been cut to more than 250,000 homes in the departments of Gironde and Charentes with another 1,000 affected in the neighbouring region of Landes.

It said it had yesterday doubled its number of staff working in order to tackle the anticipated storm damage.

Overnight, firefighters were called out more than 140 times, mainly to clear trees and fallen power lines, local officials said.

Although the winds are expected to die down later in the day, another less powerful storm is expected to hit the western coastline tomorrow, forecasters said.