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Seven dead as Western Europe hit by record winds of Storm Ciaran

By AFP

November 3, 2023 11:59 AM


Representational image

Seven people were killed as Storm Ciaran battered Western Europe on Thursday, bringing record winds as high as 200 kilometres per hour, floods, blackouts and major travel disruption.

In the Belgian city of Ghent, a five-year-old Ukrainian boy and a 64-year-old woman were killed by falling branches.

Falling trees had earlier killed a lorry driver in his vehicle in northern France's Aisne region, and French authorities also reported the death of a man who fell from his balcony in the port city of Le Havre.

A man in the Dutch town of Venray, a woman in central Madrid and a person in Germany also died.

Some 1.2 million French homes lost electricity overnight as the storm lashed the northwest coast. Almost 700,000 remained without power on Thursday evening, according to network manager Enedis.

More than one million residents were also cut off from the mobile telephone network, according to government minister Jean-Noel Barrot.

The wind gusts in the western Brittany region were "exceptional" and "many absolute records have been broken", national weather service Meteo-France said on X, formerly Twitter.

The prefect for the local department said gusts as high as 207 km/h (129 mph) were recorded at Pointe du Raz on the tip of the northwest coast, while the port city of Brest saw winds hit 156 km/h.

- Transport disrupted -

In southern England, hundreds of schools were closed as large waves powered by winds of 135 km/hour crashed along the coastline.

On the Channel Island of Jersey, residents had to be evacuated to hotels overnight as gusts of up to 164 km/hour damaged homes, according to local media.

More than 200 flights were cancelled at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, a major European hub.

Air, rail and ferry services saw cancellations and long delays across several countries.

"Due to a warm autumn with a lot of rain, trees still have their leaves, and the ground is as wet as a sponge," said Roosmarijn Knol, weather forecaster for Dutch public broadcaster NOS.

"Therefore, especially weak trees have a good chance of falling over. That is a big difference from an autumn storm at, say, the end of November, when all the leaves have already fallen."

Britain's Environment Agency warned of "significant flooding" along parts of England's southern and northeastern coasts.

The effects of the storm were felt as far south as Spain and Portugal, with Spanish authorities warning of waves as high as nine metres (29 feet) along the Atlantic coast.

In Spain more than 80 flights were cancelled at 11 airports.

In France's northern Pas-de-Calais, authorities opened gymnasiums and shelters for migrants who converge on the region hoping to make it to Britain by boat.

But NGOs warned hundreds could be forced to stay outside in tents due to a lack of emergency accommodation.

- 'Many disappointed faces' -

There was disappointment for the hardy athletes of the annual Dutch "headwind cycle championships" race.

They only hold their race along the Oosterscheldekering storm surge barrier in the western Netherlands if the wind is above a gale seven on the Beaufort Scale (up to 61 kilometres per hour).

But they finally met their match with Storm Ciaran and had to postpone it.

There were "many disappointed faces," organiser Robrecht Stoekenbroek told local agency ANP, vowing to go ahead when the storm passed.

The French weather service said storms would continue into Friday, notably in the southwest of the country and on the island of Corsica.

Rail services in western parts of the country would remain disrupted on Friday, said Transport Minister Clement Beaune.


AFP


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