Wednesday 23 May 2018

At least four dead as powerful storm lashes Europe

The national weather service recorded wind gusts of up to 140 kph (87 mph) in the southern port of Hook of Holland as the storm passed over.

A tree sits on the overhead contact wire of a rail track in Duesseldorf, western Germany (David Young/dpa/AP)
A tree sits on the overhead contact wire of a rail track in Duesseldorf, western Germany (David Young/dpa/AP)

By Mike Corder, Associated Press

A powerful storm has hit Europe with high winds and snow, killing at least four people in three countries, grounding flights, halting trains, ripping roofs off buildings and flipping over trucks.

Falling trees killed two 62-year-old men in the Netherlands, a woman south of the Belgian capital of Brussels and a 59-year-old man at a camping site in the German town of Emmerich, near the Dutch border.

Police spokeswoman Jose Albers told Dutch national broadcaster NOS that authorities also were investigating whether the powerful gusts were to blame for the death of a 66-year-old man who fell through a plexiglass roof in the central town of Vuren.

The national weather service recorded wind gusts of up to 140 kph (87 mph) in the southern port of Hook of Holland as the storm passed over.

Amsterdam’s Schiphol briefly halted flights for an hour in the morning. Flag carrier KLM already had scrapped more than 200 flights before the storm. Trains were halted across the nation.

Social media in the Netherlands was flooded with images of people being blown from their bicycles, cargo containers falling off a ship and damage to buildings, including the roof peeling off an apartment block in the port city of Rotterdam.

Water authorities in the low-lying nation closed an inflatable storm barrier east of Amsterdam to prevent flooding as the storm pushed up water levels.

Traffic on Dutch roads was plunged into chaos, with the wind blowing over trucks, toppling trees and hampering efforts to clean up the mess.

In Amsterdam, authorities temporarily halted all trams and closed the city’s zoo.

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A tree is uprooted by heavy winds in Amsterdam (Peter Dejong/AP)

Before halting all trains, the Dutch rail service reported numerous incidents including a collision between a train and a trampoline. In Amsterdam, a man had a narrow escape when a tree was blown over onto his scooter. He escaped unhurt.

In neighbouring Belgium, the port of Ghent closed down because of the high winds and tram traffic was halted in parts of Brussels.

By mid-afternoon, the storm had passed over Belgium and the Netherlands and into Germany, where police reported several injuries.

Across western Germany, air and train traffic came partially to a halt, some 100,000 people were left without electricity and schools remained closed.

The square in front of Cologne’s famous Cathedral was partially cordoned off Thursday as a precaution amid fears masonry could be blown loose.

In Romania, snowstorms and high winds forced the closure of dozens of schools, several main roads and ports, and thousands of people were left without electricity.

Interior Minister Carmen Dan said Thursday that 32,000 people had no power. Authorities also freed a bus carrying 22 people that was stranded in snowdrifts in Romania’s eastern Galati region.

Black Sea ports in eastern Romania were also closed because of the high winds, authorities said.

Press Association

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