Europe winter storm claims nine lives

Europe winter storm claims nine lives
The fish market is overflowed in the port of Hamburg, Germany, on December 5, 2013 after the storm Xaver hit northern Germany. Icy winter storms with hurricane-force winds batter northern Europe, leaving five people dead or missing, spelling travel chaos and evacuations and flooding harbours with the biggest tidal surges in decades.

BERLIN - Icy winter storms with hurricane-force winds on Friday lashed northern Europe, where the death toll rose to nine while hundreds of thousands were left without power or stranded by transport chaos.

Emergency services across the region battled overnight to sandbag sodden dykes, evacuate flooded harbour areas and repair damage from toppled trees that crashed onto houses, roads, train tracks and power lines.

Atlantic storm "Xaver", having barrelled across Britain, where two people died Thursday, packed winds of up to 158 kilometres (98 miles) per hour as it hit Germany, also battering the Netherlands, Poland and southern Scandinavia.

Blackouts hit 400,000 homes in Poland and affected 50,000 people in Sweden, while thousands of air passengers were stranded as flights were cancelled at Amsterdam, Berlin, Hamburg, Gdansk and other airports.

The highest tidal surges in decades -- due to the combined effect of strong winds and a large tidal surge -- smashed into dykes in northern Germany and the Netherlands, which however reported no major breaches.

The total death toll rose further, with one man killed by a falling tree in southern Sweden, and three died in Poland.

"A tree crashed down on a car on a local road" near the northern Polish town of Lembork, said firefighter spokesman Bogdan Madej, quoted by the television station Polsat News.

"Three people died on the spot, while another was taken to hospital."

The previous day in Britain, a lorry driver died when his vehicle toppled onto a number of cars in Scotland, while a man riding a mobility scooter was struck by a falling tree in Nottinghamshire, central England.

Also Thursday, two Filipino sailors were swept overboard from a ship off the southern Swedish coast and have remained missing, while a 72-year-old woman died in Denmark after strong winds tipped over her van.

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