LONDON: Emergency crews Saturday battled to restore power to more than one million homes and businesses a day after Storm Eunice carved a deadly trail across northwest Europe and left transport networks in disarray.
At least 16 people were killed by falling trees and flying debris caused by the fierce winds in Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Poland, emergency services said.
Train operators in Britain urged people not to travel, after most of the network was shut down when Eunice brought the strongest wind gust ever recorded in England – 196kph.
In Brentwood, east of London, a 400-year-old tree crashed into a house where Sven Good was working from home, as millions of other Britons heeded government advice to stay indoors.
“I could feel the whole roof going above me. It was absolutely terrifying,” Good, 23, told Sky News, adding that none of the occupants was injured.
The train network in the Netherlands was paralysed, with no Eurostar and Thalys international services running from Britain and France after damage to overhead power lines.
France and Ireland were also grappling with rail disruption and power cuts, and Germany’s rail operator Deutsche Bahn said “more than 1,000km” of track had suffered damage.
Poland still had 1.2 million customers without electricity on Saturday afternoon, officials said, after the country’s northwest took a battering.
“I appeal to you: please stay at home!” Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said in a Facebook post.
“We are constantly monitoring the situation and the appropriate services are at work. The fire brigade has already intervened more than 12,000 times,” he said.
In the UK, 226,000 homes and businesses remained without power after 1.2 million others were reconnected.
The toll so far includes four each in the Netherlands and Poland; three in the UK, two dead each in Belgium and Germany, and one in Ireland.
Around 30 people in northern France were injured in storm-related road accidents, and in the Netherlands, dozens of people have to be evacuated from their homes because of fears that a church’s clock tower might collapse.
Eunice sparked the first-ever “red” weather warning for London on Friday. It was one of the most powerful tempests in Europe since the “Great Storm” hit Britain and northern France in 1987.
Scientists said both storms packed a “sting jet”, a rarely seen meteorological phenomenon borne out of an unusual confluence of pressure systems in the Atlantic that magnified the effects of Eunice.
Hefty insurance bill
The Met Office, Britain’s meteorological service, on Saturday issued a less severe “yellow” wind warning for much of the south coast of England and South Wales, which it said “could hamper recovery efforts from Storm Eunice”.
The UK’s total bill for damage could exceed £300 million, according to the Association of British Insurers, based on repairs from previous storms.
At the storm’s height, planes struggled to land in ferocious winds, as documented by the YouTube channel Big Jet TV, which streamed the attempts to a mass live following from London’s Heathrow airport.
Hundreds of other flights were cancelled or delayed at Heathrow and Gatwick, and Schiphol in Amsterdam.
A section of the roof on London’s O2 Arena was shredded, and the spire of a church in the historic city of Wells, southwest England, toppled over.
Ferries across the Channel, the world’s busiest shipping lane, were suspended, before the English port of Dover reopened Friday afternoon.
Experts said the frequency and intensity of the storms could not be linked necessarily to climate change.
But Richard Allan, professor of climate science at the University of Reading, said a heating planet was leading to more intense rainfall and higher sea levels.
Therefore, he said, “flooding from coastal storm surges and prolonged deluges will worsen still further when these rare, explosive storms hit us in a warmer world.”