PARIS: The French Alps were on maximum avalanche alert on Thursday (Jan 4) after Storm Eleanor swept through Europe, killing at least three people, grounding planes and fanning wildfires in Corsica.
With the mountains packed with skiiers for the school holidays, major resort Val d'Isere closed its runs until at least midday, while Chamonix to the south said it was shutting many of its lifts as a precautionary measure.
"The objective is to keep everyone safe," said David Ponson, ski chief in the Alpine Savoie region, as many pistes were shut for a second day.
At the other extreme, firefighters on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica were battling two blazes fanned by Eleanor's strong gusts of wind Thursday morning, with three people injured in fires overnight.
Local authorities said the intensity of the blazes was "exceptional in the middle of winter". Three helicopters were set to be dispatched to help douse the flames after the winds eased up.
Eleanor, the fourth winter storm to hit Europe since December, swept into the continent on Wednesday after battering Britain and Ireland.
It has left three people dead - a 21-year-old skiier hit by a falling tree in France and a couple in their 60s swept away on Spain's northern Basque coast by a huge wave.
A young man had to be rescued after attempting to save them.
In France, 29 people have been injured - four of them seriously - including a woman hit by a falling block of concrete.
At Lenk in central Switzerland, eight people were hurt when a violent gust of wind overturned a railway carriage.
The whole of Spain's northern coast remained on "orange" alert - the second highest on a four-point scale - because of the risk from strong winds and large waves.
More than 40 towns in southwestern Spain have meanwhile brought forward their annual Epiphany feast parades - celebrating the coming of the three wise men with gifts for Jesus - to Thursday because of heavy rain forecast on Friday.
The worst of the storm appeared to have passed by on Thursday, though much of eastern France was still on "orange" alert for heavy winds, floods and avalanches.
Some 29,000 French homes remained without power, a third of them in Corsica.
Germany lowered its alert for violent winds on Wednesday evening, but high tides were worrying several states, including in the Moselle Valley where heavy downpours have halted boat traffic.
The Rhine river was set to surge to seven metres (23 feet) on Thursday and was still rising, reporters reported. River traffic will be suspended if it hits 8.3 metres.
The storm had snarled air traffic on Wednesday, briefly shutting the Strasbourg and Basel-Mulhouse airports and delaying departures from Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam.
It also played havoc with road and rail transport, leaving branches, electrical lines and other debris strewn across tracks and highways.
The Eiffel Tower was shut for most of the day, with the top deck remaining off limits most of the day due to gusts of over 80 kilometres (50 miles) an hour.