Storm ravages Germany, Europe, kills 41 people

19th January 2007, Comments 0 comments

Berlin (dpa) - At least 41 people were killed and transport ground to a halt across Northern Europe Thursday night and Friday morning in one of the worst storms to hit the continent in the last 20 years. Winds of 200 kilometres-per-hour were reported in some regions, leaving thousands without power, while 800 cubic metres of crude oil spilled into the Dutch harbour of Rotterdam after a container ship broke loose and struck an oil terminal. Germany suspended rail services nationwide and ferries were halted

Berlin (dpa) - At least 41 people were killed and transport ground to a halt across Northern Europe Thursday night and Friday morning in one of the worst storms to hit the continent in the last 20 years.

Winds of 200 kilometres-per-hour were reported in some regions, leaving thousands without power, while 800 cubic metres of crude oil spilled into the Dutch harbour of Rotterdam after a container ship broke loose and struck an oil terminal.

Germany suspended rail services nationwide and ferries were halted across the Channel and in northern Germany. More than 100 domestic and European flights were cancelled at London's Heathrow airport and in other parts of Europe.

In Britain, a 2-year-old boy was among at least 10 people killed there, while 26 members of a sinking container vessel had to be airlifted to safety in the English Channel. The crew of the 62,000-ton MS Napoli were rescued by helicopters of Britain's Royal Navy and French rescue helicopters, a spokesman for Falmouth Coastguard in Cornwall, on the tip of south-west Britain said.

Police said a number of people across Britain suffered injuries as gale force winds of up to 160 kilometres per hour brought transport chaos, damaged buildings and made scaffolding and walls collapse.

A two-year-old boy died after a wall collapsed on him in Kentish Town, north London, and four people died on the roads as trees fell on vehicles and lorries were blown off course.

In Stockport, Greater Manchester, a woman in her 60s was crushed to death when a wall toppled onto her in high winds, and another man in Manchester died after being blown into a metal shutter at an industrial estate.

Wind gusts of up to 200 kilometres per hour in Germany uprooted trees, tore down power cables and sent a two-ton steel support crashing 40 metres to the ground at Berlin's new main railway station.

Ferry routes on the North Sea and Baltic Sea were suspended, hundreds of flights were cancelled and German national railways halted all operations for the first time in its history.

The winds blew roofs off houses and forced stranded rail travellers to seek shelter at rail stations. Many stations remained opened throughout the night, providing emergency accommodation and distributing tea and blankets to stranded passengers.

Rainfall of up to 70 litres per square metre was feared in Germany as the emergency services mobilized some 40,000 workers to help in relief operations.

With 1,500 officers deployed in the city, the Berlin Fire Brigade declared a state of emergency Thursday evening as many streets were already under water.

Train services limped back to life on Friday morning, but Berlin's billion-euro (1.29 billion dollars) central station, opened with great fanfare eight months ago, remained sealed off.

Inspectors are to examine the five-storey glass and concrete building later in the day to see if could be reopened. In the meantime, commuter rail services and long-distance trains were re-routed to other stations in the capital.

In the southern state of Bavaria, a man and an 18-month-old baby were killed when doors ripped off their hinges by the wind fell on top of them. In the neighbouring region of Baden a motorist died when he crashed into an uprooted tree.

In France, a female driving instructor was crushed to death in her car by an electricity pole that had been blown over in strong winds near Lille in the north of the country. A second person was injured in the incident.

One person was injured when winds caused the roof of a textile factory also in Lille to collapse. A woman was missing under the debris.

In the Netherlands, winds and lashing rain killed at least three people, while some 800 cubic metres of crude oil flowed into the harbour at Rotterdam after a container ship broke its moorings and rammed a quay belonging to the major oil terminal in Europe's largest port.

The Dutch emergency services advised people to remain indoors and traffic authorities issued a warning to motorists not to use the roads if at all possible.

The weather bureau said the storm, with southwesterly winds gusting up to 130 kilometres an hour, was the worst to hit the Netherlands since October 2002.

A crane operator was killed in Poland as high winds snapped a 25- metre construction crane in half in Katowice, southern Poland. A second man was hospitalized as a result of the accident.

Hungary's Disaster Management Authority also advised people to stay indoors as winds of up to 100 kilometres per hour were expected late on Thursday. However, the most savage weather was expected to hit Hungary in the early hours of Friday.

In Latvia, Thursday's severe weather was hampering the salvage work after a Cypriot-registered freighter ran aground in a storm on Monday, officials confirmed, adding that the situation was stable.

"Preventing an oil spill is our first priority... but the waves are so high that (salvage workers) have not yet managed to put the necessary equipment in place," Sarma Kocane, spokeswoman for the Latvian Maritime Agency, told dpa.

Gusts of more than 100 kilometres per hour were expected in Latvia and further storms were forecast for the weekend.

The storm also dealt its first blows to Austria late in the evening, though its initial effects were less grave than predicted.

Several buildings were destroyed or damaged, roads were blocked by fallen trees and the storm caused power outages for several thousand households in the west of the country, Austrian media reported.

Parents were advised not to send children to school on Friday, though local weather experts believe that the storm weakened by the time it reached the country and expect top wind speeds of no higher than 140 kilometres-per-hour.

DPA

Subject: German news

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