Monday 23 July 2018

Destructive storm moves on to batter Europe

A fallen mature tree blocks the Herengracht canal in Amsterdam (AP)
A fallen mature tree blocks the Herengracht canal in Amsterdam (AP)

The savage coastal storm powered by hurricane-force gusts that hit Britain also struck western Europe, causing at least 15 deaths.

It was one of the worst storms to hit the region in years. The deadly tempest had no formal name, but it was dubbed the St Jude storm, after the patron saint of lost causes, and stormageddon on social networks.

Dozens of people were were injured in Denmark as gusts up to 120 mph swept across the country.

Train passengers spent the night in a sports hall due to fallen trees on the tracks. The storm left a trail of uprooted trees, damaged buildings and collapsed scaffoldings across the country.

Germany had six deaths, Britain five, Denmark two and France and the Netherlands had one each.

Tens of thousands of people were without power in Sweden, Denmark, Estonia and Latvia.

All across the region, people were warned to stay indoors. Hundreds of trees were uprooted or split, blocking roads and crushing cars. The Dutch were told to leave their beloved bicycles at home for safety's sake.

Nearly 1,100 passengers had to ride out the storm on a heaving ferry from Newcastle in Britain to the Dutch port of Ijmuiden after strong winds and heavy seas blocked it from docking in the morning.

The ship returned to the North Sea to wait for the wind to die down rather than risk being smashed against the harbour's walls.

Trains were cancelled in southern Sweden and Denmark. Winds blew off roofs, with debris reportedly breaking the legs of one man.

Near Copenhagen, the storm ripped down the scaffolding from a five-storey apartment building.

Copenhagen's Kastrup Airport saw delays as strong gusts prevented passengers from using boarding bridges to disembark from planes to the terminals.

In Germany four people were killed in three separate accidents involving trees falling on cars. A sailor near Cologne was killed on Sunday when his boat capsized and a fisherman drowned north-east of the city.

In addition to widespread rail disruptions, both Dusseldorf and Hamburg airports saw many flights cancelled, stranding more than 1,000 passengers.

Thousands of homes in north-western France also lost electricity, while in the Netherlands several rail lines shut down and airports faced delays. Amsterdam's central railway station was closed due to storm damage.

In France, maritime officials were searching for a woman who was swept into the Atlantic by a big wave as she walked on Belle Isle, a small island off the coast of Brittany.

Amsterdam was one of the hardest-hit cities as the storm surged up the Dutch coast. Powerful wind gusts toppled trees into canals in the capital's historic centre and sent branches tumbling onto rail and tram lines, halting almost all public transport. Commuters faced long struggles to get home.

Ferries in the Baltic Sea, including between Denmark and Sweden, were cancelled after the Swedish Meteorological Institute upgraded its storm warning to the highest possible level, class 3, which indicates "very extreme weather that could pose great danger".

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