London (AFP) – The second major storm in three days swept through northern Europe on Friday, killing at least nine people as high winds cut trees, canceled train services and tore parts of the roof of London’s O2 Arena.
The UK Meteorological Service said a storm temporarily measured at 122 mph (196 kph), believed to be the strongest on record in England, was recorded on the Isle of Wight as Storm Eunice swept through the south of the country. The weather system, known as Storm Zeynep in Germany, is now pushing into the European mainland, leading to warnings of strong winds in Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany.
The storm caused travel chaos in Britain, shutting down the English Channel’s port of Dover, shutting bridges connecting England and Wales, and halting most trains in and out of London.
At least three people have died in Britain, including a man in southern England who was killed when a car crashed into a tree, another man whose windshield hit a wreck in northwest England and a woman in her 30s who died in London when a tree fell on a car. the police said,
In the Netherlands, firefighters said three people died from falling trees in and around Amsterdam, and a fourth died in the northern province of Groningen after driving into a fallen tree.
In neighboring Belgium, an old man died when strong winds pushed him into a canal at Ypres. In Ireland’s county Wexford, a local government employee was killed while responding to a falling tree scene, the local council said.
Eunice is the second named storm to hit Europe this week, with the first storm killing at least five people in Germany and Poland. Peter Innes, a meteorologist at the University of Reading in England, attributed the storms to an unusually strong jet stream over the eastern Atlantic, with winds approaching 200 mph (321 km/h) at high altitudes.
“A powerful jet stream like this could act as a storm production line, generating a new storm every day or two,” Innes said. “There have been many occasions in the recent past when two or more devastating storms passed through the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe in the span of a few days.”
The forecast led British authorities to take the unusual step of issuing ‘red’ weather warnings – indicating a danger to life – for parts of southern England, including London and Wales, which continued into the early afternoon. Low-level amber warning for winds up to 80mph covers all of England from 5am to 9pm
Even before Britain hit the full force of the storm, Eunice disrupted travel through southern England and Wales with many train services suspended and many flights and ferry services canceled. A number of tourist attractions in England, including the London Eye, Legoland and Warwick Castle, were closed before the storm, as were all of London’s Royal Gardens.
In the town of Wales in southwest England, a 19th-century church tower has been blown away by winds. In London, high winds tore parts of the roofs of Square 02, a landmark on the south bank of the Thames that was originally known as the Millennium Dome. Firefighters evacuated 1,000 people from the area.
“I urge all Londoners to stay home, not take risks, and not travel unless absolutely necessary,” Mayor Sadiq Khan said before the storm.
The Environment Agency has issued 10 severe flood warnings, another indication of life-threatening weather conditions.
The storm is expected to hit northern Germany later Friday and sweep eastward overnight. A flood warning was issued for the German North Sea coast on Friday. Forecasters warned that Friday’s storm could cause more damage than the previous weather system, which caused accidents that killed at least three people, brought down trees and damaged roofs and rail tracks.
Deutsche Bahn, Germany’s largest rail operator, canceled all train services in the north of the country on Friday due to the storm.
In the Netherlands, authorities sent out an immediate alert to mobile phone users on Friday afternoon, warning them to stay at home.
The Netherlands Weather Institute earlier issued its highest warning, code red, for coastal areas and code orange for most of the low-lying country. The country’s railway company said it would stop all trains across the country starting at 2 pm (1300 GMT). KLM has canceled dozens of flights at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport.
In The Hague, high winds tore off part of the roof of the ADO The Hague football stadium. There were no immediate reports of injuries.
On Scheveningen Beach in The Hague, authorities built walls of sand to protect beachfront bars from the storm, even as dozens of surfers braved the weather in search of storm-driven waves.
In Denmark, strong winds prompted authorities to ban light vehicles from crossing the Storebælt Tunnel and bridge linking central Funen Island and Zealand, home to the capital, Copenhagen.
Storm Eunice has produced a growing concern because it has the potential to produce a “stinging jet,” a small area of strong winds that can exceed 100 miles per hour.
One example of this phenomenon occurred during what is known as the Great Storm of 1987, which killed 18 people and brought down 15 million trees across the UK, according to the Met Office.
Liz Bentley, chief executive of the Royal Meteorological Society, described the phenomenon as akin to a scorpion in the sky.
“It’s often referred to as a stinging jet because it resembles a sting in the tail as the storm moves,” she said. “And that’s usually where the strong winds are — right on the tip of that plexus of the cloud.”
Train operators across Britain urged passengers to avoid travel on Friday and many services were closed. Airlines have warned of flight delays and cancellations at airports in southern England, including London’s Heathrow, where hundreds of flights have been cancelled.
There is no evidence that climate change is driving more violent storms in Europe, said Frederic Otto, a climate scientist at Imperial College and an expert on extreme weather events.
But she said the damage caused by such storms has increased as rainfall has become more intense as a result of human-caused climate change.
“The second thing is that sea levels have gone up,” said Otto, who is part of the World Weather Attribution organization, which researches the relationship between extreme weather and global warming. “This means that storm floods, which also occur during such storms, (are) higher and therefore result in more damage than would be possible without climate change.”
Associated Press reporters Mike Corder in The Hague, Frank Jordan in Berlin, Jill Lawless in London, Raf Kassert in Brussels and Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen contributed.
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