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American seaman Bill Masen, whose eyes have been bandaged after an operation, is one of the few people on Earth left with sight after a meteor shower. Upon leaving a London hospital, he rescues Susan, a little girl whose sight has also been spared, and together they flee to France to warn people against burgeoning triffids--voracious, self-locomoted, man-eating plants dropped by the meteors. Meanwhile, Tom and Karen Goodwin, marine biologists doing research in a deserted lighthouse, have killed an attacking triffid and are trying to discover its source of life. Bill and Susan are joined by Christine Durrant, a Frenchwoman whose neighbors have been victimized by the plants, and the threesome head for Spain, where submarines are evacuating survivors. Concurrently, the Goodwins are attacked by hundreds of plants and are apparently doomed; Tom, however, douses the triffids with sea water, causing them to wither and die. Bill and his friends meet the submarine with news that the world is saved.