Killer winds rip into eastern Europe

  • World
  • Friday, 19 Jan 2007

By Piotr Skolimowski

WARSAW (Reuters) - Winds of more than 200 kph tore into Poland and the Czech Republic, uprooting trees and knocking down power lines after leaving a trail of damage across northern Europe that has killed at least 27 people. 

Rail and air travel were disrupted across the continent on Friday and millions of people were without electricity. 

A steel pillar, a part of the outside construction of Berlin's main railway station, lays on steps after it was ripped off by heavy winds January 19, 2007. (REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz)

German airline Deutsche Lufthansa said it expected many flights to be cancelled or delayed, especially at Frankfurt airport, as winds remained strong. National rail operator Deutsche Bahn also expected major disruptions. 

London's Heathrow Airport said some short-haul and domestic flights were cancelled or delayed. Flights were also delayed in Austria, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. 

Seven people died in Germany when the storm hit on Thursday. In Britain, where winds gusted up to 160 kph in the worst storms in 17 years, eight people died. Six deaths were reported in Poland, three more died in the Czech Republic and three people died in the Netherlands. 

Ukraine suspended deliveries of Russian crude oil through the main export pipeline to central Europe after storms brought down a power line. 

More than one million Czech customers faced power cuts and fallen trees disrupted travel on the nation's railways. Cuts were also reported in Slovakia and Romania. 

Meteorologists reported gusts of up to 216 kph 134 mph at the top of the Czech Republic's highest mountain, Snezka. 


In mountains in the south of Poland the wind exceeded 200 kph and some border crossings were closed, TVN24 television reported on Friday. 

One million Poles were without electricity due to power cuts and practice for the Zakopane Ski-jumping Championships was cancelled on Friday because of the weather. 

A lorry driver was killed by a falling tree and one man died when a crane he was operating collapsed. Another person died when the roof of his house was torn off. 

In Szczecin on the western Baltic coast a hotel was evacuated after an uprooted tree fell on a gas tank. 

In Hungary, where the strongest winds reached 108 kph, the fire brigade was called out more than 400 times, mostly due to fallen trees. 

In Switzerland, winds gusted to 130 kph overnight, knocking down trees. Authorities warned people to stay home, but Swiss Television showed thrill-seeking windsurfers out in gale-force winds on Lake Neuchatel. 

Computer hackers took advantage of the weather to send out a virus, "Storm Worm", intended to infiltrate computers whose owners opened an attachment apparently containing news about the storms. 

Overnight, German railways were practically shut down. 

"We will now resume services track by track," Deutsche Bahn spokesman Volker Knauer told ZDF television. 

Berlin central railway station, Europe's biggest rail crossing hub, remained closed after the wind ripped a huge steel support from the facade and hurled it to the ground. 

The storm, "Kyrill", generated winds of up to 200 kph, uprooting trees, damaging buildings and leaving thousands without electricity. In the state of Brandenburg alone more than 150,000 households suffered power cuts overnight. 

About 150,000 households suffered disruptions to their electricity supply in Austria, where a power cable torn down by a falling tree sparked a forest fire near Salzburg. Around the country, more than 100 roads had to be closed. 

In Britain, calmer weather was forecast for Friday but strong winds were still making driving hazardous. 

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