Storm death toll rises as wind, rain batters northern Europe

LONDON/AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Hurricane strength winds battered northern Europe yesterday, killing more than a dozen people, cutting power and forcing the cancellation of hundreds of flights and train journeys.

At least seven people died in Germany while there were four deaths in Britain and fatalities in the Netherlands, Denmark and France as the storm brought down trees, blew roofs off houses and turned over trucks, causing chaos across much of the region. In Germany, falling trees killed several drivers, at least one man drowned and a 66-year-old woman died when a wall collapsed on her, German media reported.

The storm had barrelled in overnight, with gusts of up to 99 mph (160 kph), leaving a trail of damage across parts of southern Britain, before heading eastwards into mainland Europe.

A 17-year-old girl was killed when a tree fell onto her home while she slept in Kent, southeast of London, while a man in his 50s was killed when a tree crushed his car in the town of Watford, just north of the capital.

A man and a woman were found dead in west London after several houses were damaged in a suspected gas explosion on a street where the storm blew a tree down. London police said the tree may have damaged gas pipes, causing the explosion.

A crane smashed into the Cabinet Office, a ministry in the heart of London, forcing Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg to cancel a news conference. Thin volumes on London’s financial markets suggested many traders had been stuck at home, along with millions of commuters who would normally head into London but were thwarted by train and Tube lines being shut by toppled trees and power failures.

London’s Heathrow airport said 130 flights were cancelled.

Passenger Nozipho Mtshede said she was going to miss her father’s funeral in Zimbabwe due to her flight being delayed eight hours: “I won’t make it because they can’t keep him so I’ll have to miss his burial.”

Winds of more than 150 kph swept across the low-lying Netherlands, killing two.

Uprooted trees smashed cars, homes and sank a houseboat on an Amsterdam canal. Roofs were blown off buildings and several houseboats were ripped from their moorings, police said.

A woman died in Amsterdam when a tree fell on her. A 24-year-old man who was struck on the head by a branch while cycling in the central city of Veenendaal died in hospital.

The storm brought trains to a standstill across much of the country, and services had not fully resumed by last evening.

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