Several dead after winter storm rages across Europe

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A late winter storm raged across much of western Europe overnight Friday and through much of Saturday, with winds measuring over 220km per hour in places, leaving several dead, uprooting trees, cutting off electricity and causing a train crash.

2 March 2008

A late winter storm raged across much of western Europe overnight Friday and through much of Saturday, with winds measuring over 220km  per hour in places, leaving several dead, uprooting trees, cutting off electricity and causing a train crash.

In Germany, a high-speed ICE train crashed before dawn Saturday into a tree that fell on a track during a storm raging across Europe, and at least two motorists were killed in other storm-related accidents.

The German railways said the engine driver was injured in the collision at Bruehl near Bonn, but the high-speed inter-city express train, bound for Vienna, Austria, did not derail. Its passengers, who were unhurt, were bused to a station to continue their journeys.

The storm, code-named Emma by German meteorologists, lashed the northern fringes of the Alps. Winds ripped tiles from roofs and toppled billboards and gusted to 222km/h on one mountaintop, the Wendelstein.

The high winds were accompanied by hail, flurries of snow, thunderstorms in parts of southern Germany.

A gust blew a motor-scooter rider, 20, into oncoming traffic, killing him at Oberpfaffenhofen, southern Germany. A falling fir tree killed a 58-year-old car passenger at Wissen in the west.

Nationwide radio warnings before the storm had counselled Germans not to go into the woods for fear of falling branches.

Airports ran behind schedule during the buffeting. Rail services between Munich, Germany and Salzburg, Austria ceased. Flash floods hit parts of Bavaria.

In neighbouring Austria, the storm howled in with wind speeds of up to 190km/h in mountainous regions, killing four persons, three of them tourists.

In the western Austrian province Tyrol two holidaymakers from Germany, aged 69 and 77, were killed in accidents when falling trees hit their cars or campers, police said. The wives of both victims suffered injuries.

A fallen tree in the town St. Poelten in eastern Austria killed one woman and injured three other persons. In Salzburg, a 50-year-old tourist from Manchester, England was killed when a rockfall hit the taxi he was riding in, local media reported.

Emma caused considerable traffic obstructions by fallen trees, holiday traffic came to a standstill in many parts of the country, leading to kilometre-long tailbacks, as several motorways were closed by authorities.

Storm damage in the capital Vienna brought down public transport for a few hours.

Train services around the country ran into delays or ground to complete halt in particular on southbound services from Vienna when a tower crane fell on the tracks at Suedbahnhof railway station, as well as westbound between Linz and Salzburg.

In Britain, two women were injured, one critically, after being crushed by a tree brought down in high winds in Cleveland, northern England as high winds battered Britain overnight, police said.

The accident occurred in Saltburn, Cleveland when the pair were out walking near the seafront on Friday afternoon.

A motorist was injured in east Yorkshire when a falling tree hit a car on a motorway near Leconfield on Friday evening. Firefighters freed the trapped victim who has since been hospitalized.

Firefighters across Britain were busy dealing with wind-related incidents early Saturday including dangerous chimney stacks in Hull and Grimsby and collapsing scaffolding in Scunthorpe.

A woman was hospitalized in Scunthorpe after part of a stable was blown onto her car after two vehicles became involved in a collision.

A lorry overturned in high winds in Sedgefield, County Durham spilling pallets and radiators onto the road prompting the temporary closure of a motorway.

Containers from two freight trains tumbled onto railway tracks along the West Coast railway line in high winds at Shap in Cumbria and on a stretch of the line in Buckinghamshire. Passengers have been told to expect delays, the BBC reported Saturday.

In the Netherlands, the Dutch Ministry of Traffic and Water Infrastructure issued placed the country on high alert status as the storm raged over the country on Saturday.

North Sea water levels near Den Helder, in the far north-west of the country, is expected to rise 2.8m above Normal Amsterdam Level, a line designating standard water-levels in the Netherlands.

The strong winds also affected a number of outdoor sports events on the European continent.

In Lahti, Finland, the Nordic Skiing World Cup sprint event was cancelled, while in Germany's Bavarian Alps the stormy winds forced the cancellation of an Alpine skiing giant slalom event.

In Salzburg, Austria a match of the Austrian football Bundesliga between Red Bull Salzburg and Wacker Innsbruck was cancelled with organizers citing safety risks.

[Copyright dpa 2008]

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