Storms In Europe Kill 46, Disrupt Travel for Thousands

Europeans labored Friday to restore services across the continent after hurricane-force winds toppled trees, brought down power lines and damaged buildings, killing at least 46 people and disrupting travel for tens of thousands.

Berlin's new main train station was shut down after a two-ton girder fell from the side of the glass facade onto an outdoor staircase. The station was evacuated after the beam plummeted 130 feet Thursday night, but there were no injuries.

"I can see maybe the glass falling, but not the steel," said Thomas Mueller, an electrician who had stopped by the downtown station to survey the damage. "They just built this thing eight months ago."

Virtually the entire German national railway system shut down during the storm, with trees over many tracks and overhead power lines down, and services were being restored gradually Friday.

"We've never had such a situation in Germany," Deutsche Bahn CEO Hartmut Mehdorn said.

Off the coast of France, a coast guard tug was called upon to tow a damaged British container ship containing explosives to safety, a day after its crew of 26 was rescued from the stormy seas.

More than 1 million homes had no electricity in the Czech Republic, which was hit by winds of up to 112 mph, another 1 million households in Germany suffered power losses, while tens of thousands in Poland and Austria also were hit with outages.

The flow of Russian oil through a Ukrainian pipeline to other parts of Europe was restored Friday after a temporary shutdown caused when the storm knocked out power to a pumping station. The interruption occurred Thursday night on a section of the Druzhba, or Friendship, pipeline from the city of Brody in western Ukraine to Slovakia and Hungary, but Oleksandr Dikusarov, a spokesman for the Ukrtransnafta pipeline company, said the flow of oil was fully restored Friday afternoon.

The storm led to the deaths of at least three people in the Czech Republic, 12 in Germany, 14 in Britain, six in the Netherlands, three in France, two in Belgium and six in Poland.

It was the highest death toll from a storm in Europe since 1999, when gales downed trees and driving snow brought on avalanches, killing more than 120 in three days.

Climate researchers had been predicting stormy weather this year for parts of Europe, saying that unusually high temperatures in the North Atlantic, around 1 to 2 degrees above normal — would allow winds to accumulate more moisture and surge in energy.

"In times of rapid climactic change, extreme events arise more frequently," said Peter Werner of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Research.

Europe has been experiencing an extremely warm winter and has already been hit by several wind storms.

Most of the people killed in the storm were motorists, but in Germany they also included two firefighters — one hit by a falling tree and the other dying of a heart attack — and an 18-month old infant in Munich hit by a terrace door that was ripped from its hinges.

In London, a toddler was killed when a brick wall was knocked over by the wind and collapsed on him.

Frankfurt Airport reported that flights were again leaving regularly Friday after some morning delays and 200 cancellations Thursday.

National carrier Lufthansa canceled 331 flights across Germany on Thursday, affecting nearly 19,000 passengers, but intercontinental flights were largely on time again Friday, spokesman Thomas Jachnow said.

British Airways canceled 34 incoming flights to London's Heathrow and Gatwick airports and the two main London-to-Scotland rail routes ran reduced services.

Eurostar was running full service again, after one early Paris-to-London train was canceled. Meanwhile, London Bridge station was reopened after being closed after part of a roof collapsed.

British train companies warned of delays through the day as repairs were carried out.

Thousands of Dutch commuters were stranded overnight when the service was halted on all trains because of obstructions to the tracks and downed power cables.

By early Friday, most Dutch trains were running again after engineers worked through the night to clear debris and repair power lines, the railway said.

German subways, trams and buses were largely back in service, but only a few long-distance trains were running.

"Bringing the service back is like a puzzle — it goes bit by bit and we're now at the first pieces," railway spokesman Martin Walden said.

The German Weather Service said the storm was the strongest to hit the country since 1999. The highest winds were felt in the southern state of Bavaria, where gusts of up to 126 mph were recorded.

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