The fierce North Sea storm "Kyrill," with hurricane-force winds of up to 191 kph (118 mph), roared through Germany on Thursday, as schools and businesses closed so that childrens and workers could seek safety in their homes. The storm even forced United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to cut short a visit to Berlin -- where she was meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel -- in order to fly to London before the winds grew too strong.
The powerful storm had already wrecked havoc in the Netherlands, France and Britain, and by early evening on Thursday, at least 12 people had been killed in storm-related incidents.
In the afternoon the storm reached parts of Germany, forcing the cancellation of more than 150 flights across the country. At the country's busiest airport, Frankfurt International, takeoffs and landings were at half of their normal capacity.
And with large sections of its network damaged by the storm, German national railway Deutsche Bahn ceased service on all long-distance trains. The decision came after an Intercity train in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein, on its way to the popular coastal resort of Sylt, struck an uprooted tree. No passengers were injured, but the storm continued to present a deadly threat to people throughout Germany and other parts of Europe.
All Deutsche Bahn employees were ordered back to work in order to provide supplies and assistance to tens of thousands of travellers left stranded in stations by one of the worst storms Europe has seen in years.
Three dead in Germany
Within just a few hours, the storm killed three people in Germany, caused significant damage and power outages in parts of the country. With a large number of trucks turned over by the wind, autobahns have also been closed. Ferry services to the Frisian islands has also been stopped.
In northern Munich, an 18-month-old girl was killed by a door that crushed the baby after being ripped from its hinges by gusts. Near Heidelberg, a driver was killed as he tried to steer away from a falling tree. In the southern German city of Augsburg, a 73-year-old man was struck by a barn door.
"What's unusual about this storm is that it will affect the whole country and not just certain zones," German Weather Service (DWD) spokesman Christoph Hartmann said, according to Reuters.
In the capital city of Berlin -- where winds traveling as fast as 110 km/hour were measured -- city streets were left under water and the local government declared a state of emergency.
Along the North Sea coast, flood warnings have been issued. The German Weather Service has also warned of heavy rain, flash floods and landslides across the country. During the next 24 hours, heavy rains of as much as 50 to 70 liters per square meter are feared.
With potentially deadly winds hitting large parts of the country, German officials have warned all residents to stay indoors and to secure their windows and doors.
Elsewhere in Europe, the situation isn't much calmer. Seven people were killed in Britain as wind gusts of up to 159 km/h (99 mph) hit the country, according to Reuters. The 62,000-ton ship "MS Napoli" sank off the coast of Cornwall, London Heathrow cancelled more than 120 flights, and the Eurostar rail service between London and Paris was disrupted after an electrical cable holder fell onto the tracks near the French city of Lille.
In the Netherlands two people were crushed to death when an uprooted tree fell on their car. And a driving instructor in northern France died after being struck by a falling power pole.
After ravaging Europe, the storm is expected to continue its path to the southeast -- with forecasts that it will strike Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Austria Friday.