Four dead as huge storms batter northern Europe
January 18 2018 05:58 PM
Snow
A woman uses an umbrella to protect herself against heavy snowfall in Hamburg on Thursday.

AFP/The Hague

Violent gales battered northern Europe and beyond on Thursday, snapping air and train links and leaving four people dead, all killed by falling trees.
The Netherlands bore the brunt of the severe winter storms -- the second this month -- as bitter winds barrelled off the North Sea to hit the low-lying country with full force.
Amsterdam's Schiphol airport, one of the continent's busiest travel hubs, was forced to briefly cancel all flights as winds gusted up to 140 kilometres (86 miles) an hour in some areas.
"Due to severe weather conditions: all air traffic has been suspended until further notice," Schiphol airport said in a tweet. Departures and arrivals gradually began resuming about two hours later.
But the airport also had to close the entrances to two of its three departure halls when some roof tiles were whipped off the terminal building.
"Fire department staff were there to help and assist, because it was not safe," airport spokeswoman Gedi Schrijzer told AFP, adding there had not been any injuries.
As the national weather service raised its warning to the highest code red level, a 62-year-old man was killed in the central Dutch town of Olst by a falling branch.
The accident happened when he got out of his truck to move a branch blocking the road, Dutch police said.
A second Dutchman, also 62, was killed in the eastern Enschede when a tree toppled onto his car, the Dutch news agency ANP said.
In neighbouring Belgium, a woman driver also reportedly died when her car was crushed by a tree as she was travelling through a wood in the Grez-Doiceau area, about 35 kilometres south of Brussels.
Four people were also injured in Antwerp, including one woman who was seriously hurt after being hit in the head by flying metal debris, the Belgian news agency Belga said.
And a 59-year-old man was killed instantly in Germany when a tree fell on him in North Rhine-Westphalia state, police said.
The Dutch national railway company, NS, announced that "due to the storm all trains are halted until further notice" apart from a small local service in northern Groningen and southern Limburg.
Thalys, the high-speed train service, suspended services to the Netherlands and Germany until at least 1300 GMT.
One Thalys train heading to the Netherlands from Brussels was stopped at Antwerp and all the passengers told to disembark and wait for at least two hours, an AFP reporter on board said.
NS said it was grappling with "a large number of breakdowns" which meant even after the storm it could take some time for normal service to be restored.
'Rotterdam unreachable'  
The high winds began to abate in the Netherlands by early afternoon, with the code red warning lifted, apart from eastern provinces bordering Germany. 
But traffic remained banned from several more-exposed roads and bridges crossing different dykes, amid images of a bus lying on its side in one canal.
By late morning the national traffic service the VID had counted 25 large lorries which had been toppled by the gale-force winds, causing huge traffic jams on six of the country's main roads.
Southern Rotterdam, Europe's busiest cargo port, was now "virtually unreachable from the north due to problems" on three of the main motorways into the city, the VID added.
Several flights were also cancelled in the German airports of western Duesseldorf and southern Munich, while the German rail service Deutsche Bahn said it was reducing the speed of its high-speed ICE trains between northern Wolfsburg and the capital, Berlin.
Several people were hurt across Germany, including one women injured when a tree was toppled near Duesseldorf. Another two were hurt when a gust of wind flipped their car on a motorway.
Elsewhere in Europe, Tyrol state in western Austria said part of the Westbahn train line linking Vienna, Linz and Salzburg was closed on Thursday morning because of avalanche risk, national railways company OeBB said.
"We don't want to take any risks," OeBB spokesman Christoph Gasser-Mair said.



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