- Eunice’s winds supplied power to more than 140,000 homes in England.
- Hundreds of flights have been canceled or delayed at London’s Heathrow and Gatwick airports and Schiphol in Amsterdam.
- Trains to the capital already ran to a limited extent during the commute.
London: Storm Eunice killed at least seven people in Europe on Friday, ravaging Britain with record-breaking winds and forcing millions to take shelter as it disrupted flights, trains and ferries across Western Europe.
London was eerily empty after the British capital was placed under the first-ever “red” weather warning, meaning there is “mortality”. By nightfall, police said a woman in her thirties had died after a tree fell on a car in which she was a passenger.
Meanwhile, according to Merseyside police, a man in his 50s was also killed in the north west of England after debris hit the windshield of a vehicle he was traveling in.
Outside of Britain, three people died in the Netherlands and a man in his 60s in southeastern Ireland, while a Canadian man, 79, died in Belgium, according to officials in each country.
As in London, southern England, South Wales and the Netherlands issued the highest level of weather warning, with many schools closed and rail traffic paralyzed as towering waves breached the seawall along the coasts.
Meanwhile, Eunice’s winds have cut power to more than 140,000 homes in England, mostly in the south west, and 80,000 homes in Ireland, utility companies said.
Around the British capital, three people were taken to hospital after sustaining injuries in the storm, and much of the roof of the capital’s Millennium Dome was torn apart by the storms.
A gust of 122 miles (196 kilometers) per hour was measured on the Isle of Wight off the coast of southern England, “so far the highest gust ever recorded in England,” according to the Met Office.
At the Tan Hill Inn, Britain’s highest pub in Yorkshire, the staff were busy preparing, even though the winds in the Northern England region remained only gale.
“But with the snow coming in now, the wind is picking up, we’re slamming the shutters, getting ready for a bad day and a worse night,” cafe maintenance worker Angus Leslie told AFP.
Scientists said the Atlantic storm’s tail could contain a “sting jet,” a rarely seen meteorological phenomenon that wreaked havoc on Britain and northern France in the “Great Storm” of 1987.
Eunice caused high waves to storm the Breton coast in northwestern France, while Belgium, Denmark and Sweden all issued weather warnings. Long-distance and regional trains were discontinued in northern Germany.
Ferries across the Channel, the world’s busiest shipping route, were suspended before the English port of Dover reopened in the late afternoon.
Hundreds of flights have been canceled or delayed at London’s Heathrow and Gatwick airports and Schiphol in Amsterdam. An easyJet flight from Bordeaux suffered two aborted landings at Gatwick – where wind gusts peaked at 124 miles per hour – before being forced to return to the French city.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has put the British military on standby, tweeted: “We all need to follow the advice and take precautions to stay safe.”
Roy Stokes, the Environment Agency official, warned weather watchers and amateur photographers not to go to Britain’s south coast in search of dramatic images, calling it “probably the dumbest thing you can do”.
The streets of rush hour in London, where activity is slowly returning to pre-pandemic levels, were virtually deserted as many followed the government’s advice to stay at home.
Trains to the capital were already running on limited commuter services, with speed limits, before seven rail operators in England suspended all operations.
The London Fire Brigade declared a “major incident” after taking 550 emergency calls in just over two hours – although it complained several were “unhelpful”, including one from a resident who complained about the trampoline blowing around in the garden from a neighbor.
The RAC roadside assistance service said it received unusually few calls on Britain’s major roads, indicating that motorists are “taking the weather warnings seriously and not leaving”.
The storm forced Prince Charles, the heir apparent, to postpone a trip to South Wales on Friday “in the interests of public safety,” his office said Thursday.
Another storm, Dudley, had caused transport and power outages as it hit Britain on Wednesday, although damage was not widespread.
Experts said the frequency and intensity of the storms cannot necessarily be linked to climate change.
But Richard Allan, a climate science professor at the University of Reading, said a warming planet led to more intense rainfall and higher sea levels.
Therefore, he said, “coastal storm surge flooding and prolonged deluges will exacerbate as these rare, explosive storms hit us in a warmer world.”