European storm turns deadly, threatens huge tidal surge

European storm turns deadly, threatens huge tidal surge
Waves lash the ferry pier on the North Sea coast in Dagebuell, Germany, on December 5, 2013 as storm front Xaver hits Germany.

LONDON - A fierce storm battered northern Europe with hurricane force winds Thursday, leaving five people dead or missing, disrupting travel and forcing thousands to flee their homes over fears of the worst tidal surge in decades.

British authorities evacuated 15,000 homes as flooding started on the North Sea coast while Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark and Sweden all boosted their flood defences.

Winds of up to 142 miles per hour (228 kilometers per hour) were recorded in Scotland and Britain's environment agency said the "surge along the east coast of England is expected to be the worst for more than 60 years."

Hundreds of flights were cancelled across northern Europe while rail and ferry services were shut down and one of Europe's longest bridges-connecting Sweden to Denmark-was closed.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said he had convened the government's emergency committee to ensure necessary measures were being taken, amid fears of a repeat of a 1953 storm surge, which killed more than 2,000 people in northern Europe.

5 dead

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.

Two sailors were reportedly swept overboard from a ship off the southern Swedish coast on Thursday. Air-sea rescue services failed to find them.

In western Denmark, a 72-year-old woman died after strong winds tipped over the van she was driving.

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