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Hurricane-Strength Winds Pummel Europe, Kill Three

  • Reuters

Firefighters remove parts of a tree from a street at Wedding district as Storm Niklas strikes in Berlin, Germany, March 31, 2015.

Firefighters remove parts of a tree from a street at Wedding district as Storm Niklas strikes in Berlin, Germany, March 31, 2015.

At least three people in Germany were killed on Tuesday when hurricane-force winds lashed across northern Europe in one of the most severe storms in years that also canceled flights, disrupted road and train traffic, and hit port operations.

The Dutch meteorological office issued a code red warning for the low-lying country's northern and coastal provinces, as gusts of up to 120 kph (75 mph) battered the Netherlands, causing damage estimated at several million euros.

German weather service spokesman Peter Hartmann said winds reached up to 160 kph on higher ground.

“This is one of the heaviest storms in recent years,” he said, noting that such hurricane-force winds were highly unusual for this time of the year.

Two state road workers were killed in the western region of Rhineland-Palatinate when a falling tree hit their vehicle, state authorities said. Another man died in front of his house when a stone wall collapsed near the city of Magdeburg in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt, police said.

About 140 flights were canceled at Frankfurt airport with one runway shut, an airport spokesperson said.

A spokesman for Amsterdam's Schiphol airport, Europe's fourth largest, said some 90 flights had been canceled because of the wind. The airport warned that flights were delayed by an average of 90 minutes and more delays were expected.

At Rotterdam, Europe's largest port, two container terminals were closed, with ships forced to queue out at sea. A spokesman said this was a routine precaution when winds rise above gale force seven. Bulk liquid terminals continued to operate.

Dutch Authorities warned lorry drivers not to travel with lightly loaded vehicles after a spate of overturned trucks blocked roads, while in the north some bridges had to be closed.

Near the port of Vlissingen on the Belgian border, authorities were able to refloat a 300-meter (1,000-feet) container ship that ran aground the small hours.

German railway operator Deutsche Bahn said it had stopped train services in the northern states of North Rhine Westphalia and Lower Saxony. Rail service between Berlin and the port city of Hamburg was halted as was service between Berlin and Hanover. Rail services were also disrupted in the southern state of Bavaria including to Munich airport.

Pedestrians struggle with their umbrellas on a windy day on the South Bank in London, Britain, March 31, 2015.

Pedestrians struggle with their umbrellas on a windy day on the South Bank in London, Britain, March 31, 2015.

In Britain, winds gusted up to 97 mph (160 kph) overnight, with a major bridge over the River Thames closed for several hours because of the bad weather, causing long traffic delays.

In Belgium, the wind uprooted trees, knocked over lamp posts and cut power lines to hundreds of homes. In some places, cars and buildings were damaged by flying debris and some rail and road links were briefly obstructed.

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