Devastating storm leaves 40 dead across Europe

19th January 2007, Comments 0 comments

BERLIN, Jan 19, 2007 (AFP) - Countries across Europe counted the cost Friday of a devastating storm that killed at least 40 people and left widespread damage and disruption to travel and power supplies.

BERLIN, Jan 19, 2007 (AFP) - Countries across Europe counted the cost Friday of a devastating storm that killed at least 40 people and left widespread damage and disruption to travel and power supplies.

Winds of up to 216 kilometers (133 miles) an hour swept off the Atlantic and cut a swathe across Britain, northern France, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Poland, Belgium, the Czech Republic and into Russia.

Twelve people were killed in storm related incidents in Britain, at least 11 in Germany, six in the Netherlands, four in Poland, three in the Czech Republic, two in Belgium and two in France. Children were among those killed by falling debris or in traffic accidents.

Hundreds of thousands of homes in several countries had power cut as the hurricane force winds ripped up trees and power lines.

The Druzhba pipeline carrying Russian oil to the European Union via Ukraine was shut off after high winds caused power problems and forced the closure of a pumping station, an official for the operators said.

Rescue helicopters saved the 26 crew of a container ship that started to sink in the Channel and German rail services were halted for the first time ever. Hundreds of flights were cancelled and many were still disrupted Friday.

In Germany, gusts of up to 200km (125 miles) an hour were recorded. Winds reached 216km (133 miles) an hour at Snezka, in the north of the Czech Republic.

British meteorologists said the "severe gale force" was the strongest recorded since another major storm in January 1990.

Falling trees and pylons claimed the lives of six motorists in Britain. A two-year-old boy, Saurav Ghai, was killed when a brick wall fell on top of him in north London. Several truck drivers also fell victim to the storms, including a German who died when his vehicle overturned in northwest England.

Winds eased on Friday but there was still disruption at London Heathrow and other British airports. British Airways cancelled more than 130 domestic flights on Thursday.

The cross-Channel port of Dover reopened late Thursday and Eurostar high-speed train services from London to Paris and Brussels said operations would return to normal on Friday, after being halted on Thursday.

In Germany, an 18-month-old baby died after being crushed by a door which was ripped off its hinges by high winds in Munich. A 73-year-old man was killed in Augsburg after a barn door fell on him.

Four people, including two firemen, died in North Rhine-Westphalia state when they were hit by trees.

For the first time in its history, Deutsche Bahn railway company suspended all services across Germany Thursday as a precautionary measure after high winds blew trees on to the tracks. In Berlin, a two-tonne steel girder fell more than 40 metres (130 feet) at the city's main rail station.

More than 200 flights in and out of Frankfurt airport were cancelled because of the winds, authorities said.

Freak accidents occurred across the storm's path. In the southern Dutch town of Riel an 11-year-old boy died after he was hit by a car, whose driver said the child was blown into the car by a sudden gust.

The Red Cross set up temporary shelters for some 5,000 commuters who were stranded after the Netherlands shut down all rail traffic.

Power companies reported widespread chaos.

More than one million people were without power in the Czech Republic. Some 100,000 homes in northern France, 20,000 households in Austria and more than 30,000 households across northeast England lost electricity -- nearly all because falling trees downed power lines.

In the Channel, 26 crew who abandoned their sinking freighter were airlifted to safety in a daring joint French-British operation launched in nine-metre (30 feet) high waves.

The British-registered ship, the MS Napoli, developed three cracks and on Friday was under tow while British and French authorities decided which port it should be taken to.

French coastguard officials said the ship was carrying hundreds of tonnes of "dangerous" cargo including explosives and unspecified toxins, and a five-kilometre (three-mile) slick of oil pollution had been detected behind the vessel.

Czech airline CSA cancelled around 20 flights at Prague airport on Friday because of the high winds. One of the airport's two terminals was closed following damage to its roof.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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