Hurricane-Force Winds Storm in Europe Wreaks Havoc

"Kyrill" has left a trail of damage from Britain to eastern Europe. At least 29 people were killed by the storm. Transportation was disrupted across the continent amid power outages, toppling trees and collapsing cranes.


The winter storm sweeping northern Europe has killed up to 29 people from Britain to the Czech Republic, with gales up to 202 kilometers an hour (125 mph) disrupting air and rail traffic continent-wide.

Hurricane-force winds from "Kyrill," Europe's most severe winter storm since 1999, ripped off part of the roof at Lord's Cricket Ground in London, toppled trucks on European highways, and ripped down a two-ton steel beam at Berlin's new central train station. Germany's rail system shut down long-distance service practically nationwide -- an unprecedented move -- and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had to cut short a visit to Berlin and fly to London before conditions worsened. She landed at London's Heathrow Airport in 130 kph (77mph) winds.

"It's not often you get winds of that sort of strength that far inland," said John Hammond, the spokesman for Britain's weather office. "(Rice) did well to land there, I wouldn't have fancied doing that."

The winds whipped rain across Europe in the middle of an unusually warm winter. The strongest wind speeds -- over 200 kph -- were measured in the mountains of upper Bavaria and in southern Poland. In the German state of Brandenburg 150,000 households suffered power cuts, and Frankfurt's international airport cancelled at least 200 flights (out of 1,300). One stranded passenger in Düsseldorf faced the delay with gallows humor: "If you want to fly now, you don't need an airplane," she said.

Ten people were killed in Germany, including a baby in Bavaria who was killed when the patio door was blown in and fell on it. Also in southern Germany, a 73-year-old was killed by a barn door as it fell. A number of people were killed by falling trees and traffic accidents.

At least another 10 people were killed in Great Britain, three each in the Netherlands and Czech Republic, two in France and one in Belgium. One million homes were without power in the Czech Republic, officials said on Friday. The 62,000-ton ship "MS Napoli" sank in high seas off the coast of Cornwall. The AP is reporting that at least 41 people were killed by the storm across Europe.

Druzhba pipeline closed -- again

In Amsterdam, cyclists who pedalled out despite the weather were blown over or even -- in some cases -- blown backwards, according to the Associated Press, while authorities in the northern Netherlands patrolled the country's sea-battered dikes. So far no breaches have been reported. But a ship drifted from its moorings not far from the Dutch city of Rotterdam and burst an oil pipeline. Some 10,000 barrels of oil leaked out.

Ferries were cancelled or delayed in Britain, Ireland, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Finland. The Eurostar train connecting London with Europe under the English Channel was shut down briefly overnight, though service resumed on Friday morning. Ukraine shut down service in the embattled "Druzhba" pipeline, which carries crude oil from Russia to Europe. Druzhba had been shut down once already in January after a bickering match between Russia and Belarus over the price of oil.

By Friday most of the storm had moved to eastern Europe, but German authorities were expecting more travel disruptions. Deutsche Bahn trains had come to a standstill overnight, leaving passengers stranded in train stations across the country, but on Friday morning Bahn spokesman Volker Knauer told ZDF television that traffic would slowly return to normal. "We will now resume services track by track," he said.

msm/ap/reuters

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