Several killed as winter storm rages across Europe

March 1st, 2008 - 11:24 pm ICT by admin  

Berlin, March 1 (DPA) A late winter storm raged across much of western Europe overnight Friday and through much of Saturday, with winds measuring over 220 km per hour in places, leaving several dead, uprooting trees, cutting off electricity and causing a train crash. In Germany, a high-speed train crashed before dawn Saturday into a tree that fell on a track during a storm raging across Europe, and at least two motorists were killed in other storm-related accidents.

The German railways said the engine driver was injured in the collision at Bruehl near Bonn, but the high-speed inter-city express train, bound for Vienna, Austria, did not derail. Its passengers, who were unhurt, were bussed to a station to continue their journeys.

The storm, code-named Emma by German meteorologists, lashed the northern fringes of the Alps. Winds ripped tiles from roofs and toppled billboards and gusted to 222 km per hour on one mountaintop, the Wendelstein.

The high winds were accompanied by hail, flurries of snow, and thunderstorms in parts of southern Germany.

Nationwide radio warnings before the storm had counselled Germans not to go into the woods for fear of falling branches.

Airports ran behind schedule during the buffeting. Rail services between Munich, Germany and Salzburg, Austria ceased. Flash floods hit parts of Bavaria.

In neighbouring Austria, the storm howled in with wind speeds of up to 190 km per hour in mountainous regions, killing four persons, three of them tourists.

In the western Austrian province Tyrol two holidaymakers from Germany were killed in accidents, the police said.

A woman was killed and three injured in St. Poelten in eastern Austria, while a British tourist was killed in Salzburg, local media said.

Emma caused considerable traffic obstructions the capital Vienna and brought down public transport for a few hours. Train and air services were also affected.

In Britain, two women were injured, one critically, after being crushed by a tree brought down in high winds in Cleveland, northern England as high winds battered Britain overnight, police said.

Firefighters across Britain were busy dealing with wind-related incidents early Saturday including dangerous chimney stacks in Hull and Grimsby and collapsing scaffolding in Scunthorpe.

In the Netherlands, the Dutch Ministry of Traffic and Water Infrastructure placed the country on high alert status as the storm raged over the country Saturday.

North Sea water levels near Den Helder, in the far northwest of the country, is expected to rise 2.80 metres above Normal Amsterdam Level, a line designating standard water-levels in the Netherlands.

The strong winds also affected a number of outdoor sports events on the European continent.

In Lahti, Finland, the Nordic Skiing World Cup sprint event was cancelled, while in Germany’s Bavarian Alps the stormy winds forced the cancellation of an Alpine skiing giant slalom event.

In Salzburg, Austria a match of the Austrian football Bundesliga between Red Bull Salzburg and Wacker Innsbruck was cancelled with organizers citing safety risks.

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