Europe cleans up after hurricane-force storms
Published Friday, January 19, 2007 11:32PM EST
BERLIN - Workers across Europe hauled away fallen trees and repaired power lines Friday after the deadliest storm to strike the continent in eight years killed at least 47 people and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.
Trains started rolling again after a near-total shutdown during Thursday night's hurricane-force winds. Airports from London to Frankfurt reported some delays and cancellations, but were returning to normal.
The disruption hit countries from Britain to Ukraine, where the flow of Russian oil through a key pipeline to Europe was temporarily halted after power to a pumping station was knocked out.
The storm knocked out electricity to more than 1 million home in the Czech Republic, which was hit by winds of up to 112 mph. Ladislav Kriz, spokesman for the main Czech CEZ utility, said Friday night that power was restored to most of the homes affected by the storm, although about 170,000 customers were still without electricity.
One million households in Germany and tens of thousands of homes in Poland and Austria also lost power.
EDF Energy in Britain said Friday it had restored power to more than 90 percent of the 350,000 customers cut off the night before, while Scottish Power said about 30,000 of its customers remained without electricity.
Stormy weather had been predicted this year for parts of Europe, with researchers saying unusually high temperatures in the North Atlantic would allow winds to accumulate more moisture and surge in energy.
The storm killed 14 people in Britain, 12 in Germany, six each in the Netherlands and Poland, four in the Czech Republic, three in France and two in Belgium.
Most of those killed were motorists. However, the victims also included two German firefighters; an 18-month-old child in Munich hit by a terrace door ripped from its hinges; a toddler killed in London when a brick wall collapsed on him; and a Polish crane operator killed when his crane broke in half.
It was the highest death toll from a European storm since 1999, when gales downed trees and driving snow brought on avalanches, killing more than 120 people.
Germany's GDV insurance association put insured losses at $1.3 billion in that country alone, and the Union of Insurers in the Netherlands estimated damage there at $207 million.
Association of British Insurers spokesman Malcolm Tarling said initial estimates suggested damage from the storm there could be hundreds of millions of dollars.
The head of Germany's national railroad, Deutsche Bahn, said the company would start assessing the cost of the damage after an unprecedented near-total shutdown. After thousands of travelers were stranded, Hartmut Mehdorn said that "we can't compensate everyone."
Two heavy steel girders came loose Thursday night from a glass facade at Berlin's new main station, one of them plunging onto an outdoor staircase, but no one was injured. The station remained shut until Friday afternoon.
"I can see maybe the glass falling, but not the steel," said electrician Thomas Mueller, who had stopped to survey the damage. "They just built this thing eight months ago."
In the British capital, London Bridge station reopened after being closed when part of a roof collapsed.
Scaffolding blew off the cathedral in Saint-Omer, France, damaging the facade and breaking a window as it fell. In Fourmies, also in northern France, the roof of a private school crashed into a parking lot.
"When it happened, everyone was in the buildings -- fortunately no one was in the cars ... otherwise there would have been deaths," the Saint-Pierre school's director, Regis Coustenoble, told France Info radio.
Off the coast of France, a coast guard tug was called to tow a damaged British container ship containing explosives to safety, a day after its crew of 26 was rescued from stormy seas.