Nine dead as huge storms batter Europe

BERLIN — Nine people including two firefighters were killed Thursday as violent gales battered northern Europe, snapping air and train links. Germany halted all long-distance rail traffic for at least a day, while numerous domestic flights were scrapped as hurricane-force winds lashed the country. The storm claimed six lives in Germany, including two firefighters deployed in emergency operations and two truck drivers whose vehicles were blown over by the gales. Another driver died when he lost control of his vehicle and crashed in to a truck. A 59-year-old camper was killed instantly when a tree fell on him in North Rhine-Westphalia state, German police said, as wind speeds reached a high of 203 kilometres an hour (126 mph) at the Brocken — the highest peak of northern Germany. The storm, named Friederike, also ripped the roof off a school in the eastern state of Thueringia while children were still in the building. Authorities said no one was hurt there. In the Bavarian alps, the strong gales forced the cancellation of a ski world championship qualifier at Oberstdorf. It is the worst storm to strike Germany since 2007, according to the German weather service. Passengers stuck at rail stations were given a voucher for a hotel room, German rail service Deutsche Bahn spokesman Achim Strauss said. “We must have protect our passengers and our staff,” he added, without saying when the rail service would return to normal. In the Netherlands, which had borne the brunt of the severe winter storms earlier… [Read full story]

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