Storm lashes northern Europe, stalling travel in parts of Britain
LONDON — One of the most powerful storms in Europe in years left at least 13 people dead, hundreds of thousands without power and many stranded Monday when trains, planes and ferries were canceled after high winds battered the northern part of the Continent.
Gusts of 99 mph were recorded in the south of England as the storm brought parts of Britain to a standstill, uprooting trees, overturning a double-decker bus and toppling a crane near the London office of the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg.
At least 13 storm-related deaths were reported, with most victims crushed by falling trees. Germany had six deaths, Britain had five and the Netherlands and Denmark had one each, The Associated Press reported. One woman was also missing after being swept into the surf in France.
A gas explosion killed two people in London, and a British teenager playing in the storm-driven surf was swept out to sea, The AP reported. A man in Denmark was killed when a brick fell off a building and hit his head.
Many Britons still remember a 1987 storm that brought winds of up to 115 mph after a well-known weatherman, Michael Fish, had ridiculed the idea that a hurricane was on its way. This time Britain’s forecasters predicted the storm, but the transportation system is notoriously bad at handling extreme weather, and even mild snow showers can paralyze networks.
On Monday, most train companies in southern England suspended some early morning services, including those connecting Gatwick and Stansted airports to the capital. Some flights were canceled, and the worst-hit airport appeared to be Heathrow, which canceled around 130 flights.
Power failures crippled many parts of the country. “This was as a result of networks’ being broken by objects such as trees, branches or road signs blown by the strong winds,” said Tim Field, a spokesman for the Energy Networks Association, the trade body for the operators of infrastructure. Field said around 580,000 customers had their power disrupted at one point during the storm, though by midday the number had dropped to 270,000.
At the Dungeness B power station in Kent, nuclear reactors shut down automatically after debris on incoming power lines interrupted energy to the site, EDF Energy said. “The reactors are safely shut down and National Grid staff are now working to restore the supply,” said Martin Pearson, station director at Dungeness B.