A powerful storm pummeled Europe with high winds and snow Thursday, killing at least six people in three countries, grounding flights, halting trains, ripping roofs off buildings and flipping over trucks.
Falling trees killed two 62-year-old men in the Netherlands, a woman south of the Belgian capital of Brussels, a 59-year-old man at a camping site in the German town of Emmerich and a firefighter in the German town of Bad Salzungen. In Lippstadt, western Germany, a driver died when he lost control of his van in strong winds and drove into oncoming traffic, police said.
Police spokesperson Jose Albers confirmed the deaths to national broadcaster NOS and said authorities also were investigating whether the powerful gusts were to blame for the death of a 66-year-old man who died after falling through a plexiglass roof in the central town of Vuren.
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Social media in the Netherlands was flooded with images of people being blown from their bicycles, cargo containers falling off a ship and damage to buildings, including a roof that peeled off an apartment block in the city of Rotterdam.
Passengers were briefly stranded as Schiphol halted flights shortly after 11 a.m. local time, before resuming around noon. Flag carrier KLM already had scrapped more than 200 flights before the storm.
Traffic on Dutch roads was plunged into chaos, with the wind blowing over tractor trailers and toppling trees, hampering efforts to clean up the mess. In Amsterdam, authorities halted all trams and closed the city’s zoo.
The national weather service recorded wind gusts of up to 140 km/h in the southern port of Hook of Holland as the storm passed over. Water authorities in the low-lying Netherlands also closed a storm barrier 75 kilometres east of Amsterdam because of high-water levels.
Before halting all trains, the Dutch rail service reported numerous incidents including a collision between a train and a trampoline. In Amsterdam, a man had a narrow escape when a tree was blown over onto his scooter. He escaped unhurt.
Neighbouring Belgium also was hit by the storm. The port of Ghent closed because of the high winds and tram traffic halted in parts of the capital, Brussels.
German Railways cancelled all train services for the country’s most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia due to the high winds. The square in front of Cologne’s famous Cathedral was also partially cordoned off Thursday as a precaution amid fears masonry could be blown loose. Schools were closed in many part of Germany, but the German news agency dpa reported only a few weather-related flight cancellations.
In Britain, power was knocked out to thousands of homes. Gale-force winds damaged overhead power lines that supply trains and brought trees crashing onto the tracks, causing severe delays for thousands of commuters.
Driving conditions in parts of Scotland were extremely hazardous, with officials advising motorists to stay off the roads because of blustery winds, heavy snow and ice.
In Romania, snowstorms and high winds forced the closure of dozens of schools, several main roads and ports, and thousands of people were left without electricity. Interior Minister Carmen Dan said Thursday that some 32,000 people had no power. Authorities freed a bus carrying 22 people that was stranded in snowdrifts in Romania’s eastern Galati region.
Black Sea ports in eastern Romania were also closed Thursday because of high winds, chief traffic official Catalin Bocai told Antena 3.