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Powerful storm slams Europe

A powerful storm with hurricane-force gusts hit Britain and began moving across Europe on Thursday, disrupting air travel, halting trains and leaving tens of thousands of homes without electricity. Accidents linked to the storm killed three people.

Authorities evacuated some 10,000 homes along the eastern English coast after warning that the country could face its worst tidal surge in 60 years. The Thames Barrier — a series of huge metal plates that can be raised across the entire river — was being closed late Thursday to protect London from the surge.

Tidal floods — caused as the storm drives huge amounts of seawater toward the land — were expected in Britain, Germany and Scandinavia, together with freezing high winds from Greenland.

Rescue teams ferried residents to safety by boat in north Wales, while officials in other areas handed out sandbags and set up emergency shelters.

The storm first plowed into Scotland overnight, slamming the highlands with gusts up to 142 miles (229 kilometres) per hour. Trains were suspended for much of Thursday, but began to run fitfully later as some routes were cleared of debris.

Transportation troubles were reported throughout northwestern Europe. All flights to and from Copenhagen's international airport were halted late Thursday due to the storm, officials said. It was not immediately clear how many passengers were affected or how long the airport — Scandinavia's largest — would stay closed.

Almost all flights to and from Hamburg airport in northern Germany were also cancelled, and federal authorities in Germany issued a warning for residents of Hamburg to expect a "very severe tidal flood" at about 6:30 a.m. Friday (0530 GMT; 12:30 a.m. EST). Residents were urged to evacuate low-lying areas of the port and along the Elbe River.

The German Weather Service said the storm front, which was gathering strength as it headed eastward from the Atlantic Ocean off Greenland, would also bring polar air and some snow to Europe.

Some schools in the northern Netherlands closed early so children could get home safely to celebrate Sinterklaas — the traditional Dutch version of Christmas — with their families.

Passengers on an easyJet flight from London to Glasgow, Scotland, wound up landing in Manchester after aborted attempts to land in both Glasgow and Edinburgh.

As the plane neared Scotland, "suddenly everything started shaking and bumping, we were going up and down, up and down," said passenger Hazel Bedford.

"An awful lot of people were being sick but the plane, it was incredibly quiet. When cabin crew said 'We're going to Manchester,' people started to realize this was serious," she said.

An accident west of Edinburgh claimed the life a truck driver and a falling tree killed a man in Nottinghamshire.

Police in western Denmark said a 72-year-old woman died when the van she was in was knocked over in the storm.

Forecasters predicted winds gusting up to 87 mph (140 kph) along Germany's North Sea coast.

The Canadian Press


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