By Marie-Louise Gumuchian and Rhys Jones
LONDON — A strong storm battered Britain and the Netherlands on Monday (28/10/2013), killing three people, cutting power and forcing hundreds of plane and train cancellations as it moved on across mainland Europe.
Winds of up to 99 miles per hour (160 km per hour) lashed southern England and Wales, disrupting the travel plans of millions of commuters — the worst storm recorded in Britain in a decade.
A 17-year-old girl was killed when a tree fell onto her home while she slept in the county of Kent, southeast of London, while a man in his 50s was killed when a tree crushed his car in the town of Watford, just north of the capital.
Thin volumes on London’s financial markets suggested many traders had been stuck at home. A crane smashed into the Cabinet Office, a ministry in the heart of London, forcing Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg to cancel a press conference.
Heavy winds also swept across the low-lying Netherlands, uprooting trees and shutting down all train traffic to Amsterdam. They were forecast to peak at more than 130 kph by early afternoon.
A woman was killed and two people were seriously hurt by falling trees in the Dutch capital and a ferry carrying 1,000 people from the English city of Newcastle was unable to dock in the port of IJmuiden and returned to sea, RTL television said.
Fifty flights at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport were cancelled and Rotterdam Port, Europe’s busiest, said incoming and outgoing vessels were delayed.
In France, winds topping 100 kph struck the north and northwest, felling trees, whipping up seas and cutting power supplies to around 75,000 homes, according to the ERDF electricity distribution company.
"The thing that’s unusual about this one is that most of our storms develop out over the Atlantic so that they’ve done all their strengthening and deepening by the time they reach us,” said Helen Chivers, spokeswoman for Britain’s Met office on Sunday.
"This one is developing as it crosses the UK, which is why it brings the potential for significant disruption ... and that doesn’t happen very often.” The worst of the storm in Britain had passed by late morning, despite strong winds still battering the east coast, a Met Office spokeswoman said. It was headed towards the Netherlands.
London-based trading in sterling against the dollar and the euro was particularly hit, with volumes at around two thirds of normal levels, while British government bond trading was running at barely half its normal volume.
In southern England, toppled trees damaged properties and flooding made some roads impassable.
About 180,000 customers in Britain were left without power in one of the worst storms to hit England since the 1987 "Great Storm” which killed 18 people and felled around 15 million trees.
A 14-year old boy was missing after being swept out to sea on Sunday afternoon before the storm hit. Police said rescuers were forced to call off a search for him late on Sunday due to the pounding waves.
London’s Heathrow airport said 130 flights were cancelled, the majority between 0600 and 1100 GMT and told passengers to check with their airlines before travelling.
As the working week began, London’s commuter train service was shut down while several Tube lines, which run both underground and overground, were partially suspended due to obstructed tracks.
The Highways Agency, which operates the road network in England, said high winds had forced the closure of the Dartford Crossing, a major motorway bridge linking London to the county of Essex in the east. The Severn motorway bridge linking England to South Wales was also shut down.
Met Office spokesman Dan Williams said the last such comparable storm — taking into consideration the time of year and area affected — was in October 2002. - Reuters