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Eight killed as ferocious storm pummels Europe

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LONDON: The second major storm in three days smashed through the United Kingdom and northern Europe on Friday, killing eight people as high winds felled trees, cancelled train services and ripped sections off the roof of London’s O2 Arena.

The UK weather service said a gust provisionally measured at 196 kph, thought to be the strongest-ever in England, was recorded on the Isle of Wight as Storm Eunice swept across the country’s south.

The weather system, known as Storm Zeynep in Germany, later bore down onto the European mainland, prompting high wind warnings in Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany.

The storm caused mayhem with travel in Britain, shutting the English Channel port of Dover, closing bridges linking England with Wales and halting most trains in and out of London.

A woman in her 30s died in London when a tree fell on a car, police said, and firefighters said three people were killed by falling trees in and around Amsterdam, the Netherlands. In County Wexford, Ireland, a local government worker was killed as he responded to the scene of a fallen tree, the local council said.

High winds sent a crane crashing onto the roof of a hospital in the Belgian town of Tournai.

Images on social media showed the crane’s tip crashed into the roof of the hospital and through the ceiling of the top floor.

One elderly man died when high winds pushed him into a canal in Ypres. Police said he was quickly pulled out, but his life could not be saved.

Eunice is the second named storm to hit Europe this week, with the first storm killing at least five people in Germany and Poland. Peter Inness, a meteorologist at the University of Reading in England, attributed the storms to an unusually strong jet stream over the eastern Atlantic Ocean, with winds close to 200 mph (321 kph) at high altitudes.

A strong jet stream like this can act like a production line for storms, generating a new storm every day or two, Inness said. There have been many occasions in the recent past when two or more damaging storms have passed across the U.K. and other parts of Europe in the space of a few days.” The forecast led British authorities to take the unusual step of issuing red weather warnings indicating a danger to life for parts of southern England, including London, and Wales that lasted through early afternoon.

A lower level amber warning for gusts up to 80 mph covers the whole of England from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Even before Britain was hit by the full force of the storm, Eunice disrupted travel across southern England and Wales with many train services interrupted and numerous flights and ferry services cancelled. A number of tourist attractions in England, including the London Eye, Legoland and Warwick Castle, closed ahead of the storm, as were all of London’s Royal Parks.

In the town of Wells in southwest England, the wind toppled the spire of a 19th-century church. In London, high winds ripped sections of roofing from the 02 Arena, a landmark on the south bank of the River Thames that was originally known as the Millennium Dome. Firefighters evacuated 1,000 people from the area.

I urge all Londoners to stay at home, do not take risks, and do not travel unless it is absolutely essential, Mayor Sadiq Khan said before the storm.

The Environment Agency issued 10 severe flood warnings, another indicator of life-threatening weather conditions.

The storm was expected to hit northern Germany later Friday and sweep eastward overnight. A flood warning was issued for Germanys North Sea coast on Friday.

Published in Dawn, February 19th, 2022


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