Picture: 123RF/NEJRON
Picture: 123RF/NEJRON

Storms packing nearly 180km/h winds hit Portugal early on Sunday leaving hundreds of thousands of people without power before carrying heavy rain on into Spain, authorities said.

Twenty-seven people suffered minor injuries, civil defence commander Luis Belo Costa said.

The region around Lisbon and the centre of the country at Coimbra and Leiria were worst hit with trees uprooted, houses damaged and flooding reported.

Aveiro, Viseu and Porto in the north also suffered damage with rescue services reporting a total of 1,900 incidents. The civil defence services said 324,000 people were left without electricity while more than 60 people had to leave their homes and flee to safety.

Power was being restored across the north and centre of the country during the morning.

Leslie was dubbed a "zombie" hurricane as it first formed on September 23, only to meander through the Atlantic Ocean for weeks.

There were fears it could be the worst storm to hit the region in more than 150 years, but it weakened to a post-tropical storm before reaching the Portuguese coastline in the early hours of Sunday. "The greatest danger has passed," Costa said. "The north and centre were the worst affected."

Portuguese authorities had urged those living on the coast to stay indoors amid warnings of winds that reached 176km/h.

"I have never seen anything like it," one witness told SIC television in Figueira da Foz, 200km north of Lisbon. "The town seemed to be in a state of war with cars smashed by fallen trees," he said.

Maritime authorities advised fishermen at sea to return to the nearest port and Portugal’s TAP airline cancelled seven flights to and from Lisbon.