The World

27 die in fierce European storms

High winds and heavy rain damage buildings and cancel flights.

January 19, 2007|From Times Wire Services

LONDON — Hurricane-force winds and heavy downpours hammered northern Europe on Thursday, killing 27 people, damaging buildings and disrupting travel for tens of thousands.

The storms were among the fiercest in years, ripping off part of the roof at Lord's Cricket Ground in London and a several-ton steel support on the facade of Berlin's new central train station.

The victims included a 2-year-old boy hit by a toppled brick wall in London and a 73-year-old man and 18-month-old child killed by doors ripped from their hinges in winds gusting to 118 mph in Germany.

Helicopter rescuers winched 26 sailors to safety as their container ship began to sink in a stormy English Channel.

In London, commuters struggled through road closures caused by falling debris blown from glass-paneled office buildings and medieval churches.

The city's slender Millennium Bridge was closed after the suspension structure began swaying dangerously.

Rail stations across London also were closed, and the evening commute melted into chaos.

Traffic on the M25 encircling London, one of the busiest highways in Europe, was backed up for miles after three trucks were knocked over by a single gust.

Traffic on the Eurostar, the train service connecting Britain with continental Europe through the Channel Tunnel, was suspended after an electrical cable holder fell onto the tracks near the northern French city of Lille, France's national railway company said. Most ferries stayed in port.

London's Heathrow Airport canceled 280 flights. Other major airports -- including those in Frankfurt and Munich, Germany; Amsterdam and Vienna -- reported delays and cancellations.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice cut short her visit to Berlin to leave for London before winds worsened.

Her plane circled for 15 minutes before landing at Heathrow in winds gusting to 77 mph.

Dozens of German flights were canceled, schools were shut, and the national railroad suspended much of its services.

"We are still at a standstill nationwide," with only a few trains running, Hans-Georg Zimmermann, spokesman of the national railroad, Deutsche Bahn, told NTV television.

Berlin's new central train station, which opened eight months ago, was evacuated after the steel facade support toppled, the fire brigade said.

In Amsterdam, some bicyclists who ventured out despite warnings from the fire department were blown over or, in some cases, backward.

In Utrecht, Netherlands, a construction crane toppled onto a university building, crumpling the roof and injuring six people.

Traffic accidents accounted for many of the fatalities.

Ten deaths were reported in Britain, and seven died in Germany, four in the Netherlands, three in the Czech Republic, two in Belgium and one in France.

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