A fierce storm blustering through Europe, with some gusts clocking in at more than 200kph, claimed at least seven lives in four countries yesterday and forced one transport system after another to shut down for the duration.
Deaths were recorded in Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy and Germany.
The Netherlands and Germany also shut down significant portions of their train services as conditions worsened yesterday.
Similarly, many airports suspended services out of safety concerns.
During the day, German weather authorities upgraded the storm, named Friederike, to a hurricane.
However, it was only a few hours until the storm lost its hurricane status, at least in the country’s west.
That said, the weather authorities have warned of Friederike’s continued bluster, with the potential for dangerous gusts and bursts of inclement weather.
Winds were still being recorded about 85kph after the downgrade in the west, with stronger winds expected in eastern Germany throughout the night.
Winds were averaging about 130kph during the worst of the storm, with speeds of 203kph registered at one point in western Germany.
In Germany, authorities were warning that full nationwide train service would not resume until today, as crews needed time to inspect tracks by helicopter for damage and objects blocking the way.
After the shutdown was called, workers rushed to get trains already under way to their final destinations before all service shut down.
“How long will it last? They’re not saying anything,” pondered one stranded passenger at the Cologne rail station.
She said she hoped traffic would resume later, adding she would wait until she “grew tired”.
Others were not so understanding.
One irritated passenger in the western city of Essen said that authorities were overreacting: “Are you supposed to quit working just because of a little strong wind? Security comes before everything else, but to shut down everything?”
Similarly, air traffic services were dramatically curtailed across the country out of worries about the weather.
“Weather conditions in western Germany have gotten worse,” said Lars Wagner, a spokesman for Berlin’s airport.
Multiple domestic flights have already been cancelled.
The storm also forced the Dutch weather service to issue a red alert, prompting all train service and flights to be suspended starting in the afternoon.
Several lorries were blown over, blocking motorways.
Belgian railway traffic was slightly disrupted due to items blown onto the tracks, including a trampoline in one instance.
The port of Ghent was also closed yesterday, according to the Belga news agency.
There were three deaths recorded in Germany, including a firefighter killed in the eastern town of Bad Salzungen when he was hit by a falling tree.
Two others died in western Germany, one when he had lost control of his vehicle, another due to a falling tree.
Two deaths were recorded in the Netherlands, both due to falling trees or branches, police said.
Belga reported that a falling tree had claimed one woman in Belgium, and in Italy, a man died when the winds pushed him down after he had climbed on top of a house.
Services were also shut down for safety reasons, including schools in some parts of Germany and public parks in Brussels.
In Germany, direct access to Cologne’s famed cathedral was restricted out of safety concerns, a spokesman for the city authorities said.
And complicating national politics, a regional meeting of Germany’s Social Democrats in Saxony, where they were going to discuss whether the party should join the country’s next government, was cancelled due to weather worries.
Meanwhile, several helicopter flights were halted yesterday from the Norwegian mainland to oil and gas platforms in the North Sea, public broadcaster NRK reported.
Separately, 38 people had to be taken to safety in central Norway out of fears of flooding caused by an avalanche that blocked parts of a river.
In Britain, meanwhile, strong wind blew down fences and allowed a wolf to escape from its enclosure at the Wolf Conservation Trust in Berkshire, west of London.
It was later captured, police reported.
There were also reports of multiple motorists stranded across Britain thanks to gales and heavy snow brought by the storm.
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