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Six dead as storms batter Europe

January 19, 2018

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Amsterdam: A man makes a phone call following a narrow escape after his scooter was hit by a crashing tree uprooted by heavy winds on Thursday.—AP
Amsterdam: A man makes a phone call following a narrow escape after his scooter was hit by a crashing tree uprooted by heavy winds on Thursday.—AP

BERLIN: Violent gales battered northern Europe and beyond on Thursday, snapping air and train links and leaving six people dead.

Germany halted all long-distance rail traffic for at least a day, while numerous domestic flights were scrapped as hurricane-force winds lashed the country.

A 59-year-old man was killed instantly when a tree fell on him in North Rhine-Westphalia state, German police said, as wind speeds attained a high of 203 kilometres an hour at the Brocken — the highest peak of northern Germany.

Another man, a 68-year-old truck driver, died in a traffic accident also in the western German state caused by the ferocious storm, while a firefighter lost his life as he was hit by a fallen tree in central Germany’s Bad Salzungen.

The strong gales also forced the cancellation of a ski world championship qualifier at Oberstdorf, in the Bavarian alps.

In the Netherlands, which had borne the brunt of the severe winter storms earlier on Thursday, two people were crushed by falling trees as bitter winds barrelled off the North Sea to hit the low-lying country with full force.

As the national weather service raised its warning to the highest code red level, a 62-year-old man was killed in the central Dutch town of Olst by a falling branch when he got out of his truck to remove debris blocking the road.

A second Dutchman, also 62, was killed in eastern Enschede when a tree toppled onto his car, the Dutch news agency ANP said.

In neighbouring Belgium, a woman driver reportedly died when her car was crushed by a tree as she was travelling through a wood in the Grez-Doiceau area, about 35 kilometres south of Brussels.

Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, one of the continent’s busiest travel hubs, was forced to briefly cancel all flights as winds gusted up to 140 kilometres an hour in some areas.

Flights later resumed but all passengers were being advised to check their flight status, the airport said in a tweet, adding “up until now, 320 flights have been cancelled”.

The airport also had to close the entrances to two of its three departure halls when some roof tiles were whipped off the terminal building.

Published in Dawn, January 19th, 2018