Eight dead as storm lashes northern Europe

28th October 2013, Comments 0 comments

At least eight people died and more than 300,000 homes were left without power on Monday as a fierce storm swept across northern Europe.

Four people were killed in Britain, two in Germany, one in The Netherlands and another in France as heavy rain and high winds battered the region overnight and into the morning.

The rough conditions at sea also forced rescuers to abandon the search for a 14-year-old boy who disappeared while playing in the surf on a southern English beach on Sunday.

British Prime Minister David Cameron described the loss of life as "hugely regrettable".

Winds reached 99 miles (159 kilometres) per hour on the Isle of Wight off the southern English coast, according to Britain's Met Office national weather centre.

Heavy rain and winds of 80 mph elsewhere brought down thousands of trees and caused the mass cancellation of train services across southern England and The Netherlands, as well as in parts of Germany.

In Britain, a 17-year-old girl died after a tree fell onto the parked caravan where she was sleeping, while a man in his fifties died when a tree fell on his car, police said.

The bodies of a man and a woman were later found in the rubble of three houses in London that collapsed in an explosion thought to have been caused after a gas pipe was ruptured in the storm.

A woman in Amsterdam was killed by a falling tree as she walked along a canal, while a woman in her fifties was presumed dead after being swept away by waves in the western French region of Brittany, authorities in those countries said.

And in western Germany, two people were killed when a tree fell on their car.

Some 270,000 homes lost power across Britain, with a further 75,000 homes affected in northern France, according to industry organisations. Thousands were later re-connected.

The electricity also went down at a nuclear power station in southeast England. Dungeness B station automatically closed down both its reactors, leaving its diesel generators to provide power for essential safety systems.

Even Buckingham Palace in London was affected, although Queen Elizabeth II was not staying there at the time.

A spokeswoman said several slates fell off the roof and two of the windows were cracked.

Commuters sit it out

Train operators across southern England had on Sunday cancelled services for the next morning in anticipation of bad weather, following warnings by forecasters and the media.

Many commuters delayed their journeys until the storm passed mid-morning, leaving central London stations eerily quiet during what normally would have been the rush hour.

Trading on the FTSE 100 started slowly as many traders stayed at home, according to one analyst.

And Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg had to cancel his monthly press conference because the government building where he works was closed after a crane fell on the roof.

London's Heathrow airport cancelled 130 flights, about 10 percent, while delays were reported on the Eurostar cross-Channel train service due to speed restrictions.

"Clearly this has been a difficult night for many Londoners, and continues to be an incredibly trying morning," said London Mayor Boris Johnson.

More than 450 people were stranded on two ferries outside the port of Dover after it closed for more than two hours, finally docking shortly after 9:00 am (0900 GMT).

The Met Office said 50 millimetres (almost two inches) of rain fell in some areas of Britain overnight, while the Environment Agency issued around 130 flood alerts.

The storm was named Christian in France and dubbed St Jude by the British media, after the patron saint of lost causes whose feast day is on Monday.

It had been predicted to be the worst for a decade but the devastation was not as bad as many feared, and fell far short of that caused by the "Great Storm" of October 1987.

During that storm, 22 people died in Britain and France and the damage was estimated at £1 billion ($1.6 billion or 1.2 billion euros at current exchange rates).


© 2013 AFP

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