Powerful Gale Lashes Europe, 4 Dead Amid Traffic Chaos

Powerful Gale Lashes Europe, 4 Dead Amid Traffic Chaos
A truck crashed during heavy storms at the motorway A 71 near Erfurt, central Germany, Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — A powerful storm pummeled Europe with high winds and snow Thursday, killing at least four 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 and a 59-year-old man at a camping site in the German town of Emmerich, near the Dutch border.

Police spokeswoman Jose Albers told Dutch national broadcaster NOS that authorities also were investigating whether the powerful gusts were to blame for the death of a 66-year-old man who fell through a plexiglass roof in the central town of Vuren.

The national weather service recorded wind gusts of up to 140 kph (87 mph) in the southern port of Hook of Holland as the storm passed over.

Amsterdam’s Schiphol briefly halted flights for an hour in the morning. Flag carrier KLM already had scrapped more than 200 flights before the storm. Trains were halted across the nation.

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 the roof peeling off an apartment block in the port city of Rotterdam.

Water authorities in the low-lying nation closed an inflatable storm barrier east of Amsterdam to prevent flooding as the storm pushed up water levels.

Traffic on Dutch roads was plunged into chaos, with the wind blowing over tractor trailers, toppling trees and hampering efforts to clean up the mess. In Amsterdam, authorities temporarily halted all trams and closed the city’s zoo.

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.

NTD Photo
A man who escaped unharmed picks up his gloves after his scooter was hit by a crashing tree uprooted by heavy winds in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
NTD Photo
Rescue workers are busy at the site where a car was hit by a falling tree during a storm in Moers, western Germany, Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018. The driver was seriously injured in the accident. (Christoph Reichwein/dpa via AP)

In neighboring Belgium, the port of Ghent closed down because of the high winds and tram traffic was halted in parts of Brussels.

By mid-afternoon, the storm had passed over Belgium and the Netherlands and into Germany, where police reported several injuries.

Across western Germany, air and train traffic came partially to a halt, some 100,000 people were left without electricity and schools remained closed.

The square in front of Cologne’s famous Cathedral was partially cordoned off Thursday as a precaution amid fears masonry could be blown loose.

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 32,000 people had no power. Authorities also 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 the high winds, authorities said.

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