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Rescue services searched today for the five crew members of a French trawler apparently wrecked off the British coast in huge storms that killed seven people on land over Christmas.

Thousands of people were still without power today after winds of up to 100 mph felled trees, snapped power lines and ripped tiles from roofs.

A spokesman for Britain's coast guard service said the families of the French crew had been informed that wreckage had been found off South Wales, but bad weather thwarted a Thursday evening search by a Royal Air Force aircraft.

Winds gusting up to 90 mph took their heaviest toll in northwest England, north Wales and Northern Ireland. Winds surpassing 100 mph swept in from the Atlantic and hit southwest Ireland.

Victims included a man, his daughter and her boyfriend, who were killed when a tree toppled onto their car in the Welsh village of Pengam. Earlier, the stormy weather was blamed for three deaths in Britain and one in Ireland.

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