LONDON (REUTERS) – An Atlantic storm battered northwestern European on Friday (Feb 18) with record winds of up to 196kmh, killing at least nine people, knocking out power for tens of thousands and shredding the roof of London’s O2 arena.
Storm Eunice, which brewed in the central Atlantic and was spun up from the Azores towards Europe by the jet stream, posed a danger to life, Britain’s Meteorological Office said.
The storm hit western England, making landfall in Cornwall, where waves lashed the coast, sending plumes of spray over the roofs of cottages, Reuters pictures showed.
A woman was killed in London when a car in which she was travelling was crushed by a tree and a man in a vehicle in Liverpool died due to flying debris. Another man died after a vehicle collided with a fallen tree in the southern English county of Hampshire.
In the Netherlands, four people were killed by toppled trees. In Belgium, high winds brought a crane down onto the roof of a hospital and a British man died after being blown from his boat into the water.
A man died in Ireland after being struck by a falling tree while clearing storm debris, RTE reported.
High winds in London shredded the white domed roof of the O2 arena which has hosted stars from The Rolling Stones to Beyonce and Rihanna. Tall buildings in London trembled as wind whistled through Canary Wharf.
In Wales, waves crashed over Aberystwyth promenade, some as high as houses. More than 100,000 people were hit by power cuts as lines were torn down and ancient trees keeled over.
“Storm Eunice is really packing a punch,” Met Office Chief Meteorologist Frank Saunders said. “We only issue red weather warnings when we think there is a threat to life from the weather.”
The Met Office said a gust of 196kmh was recorded at The Needles on the Isle of Wight, provisionally a record for the most powerful gust ever recorded in England.
Later on Friday, the Met Office said the fiercest winds from the storm were heading towards Scandinavia and northern mainland Europe where warnings had been issued.
Planes were buffeted so strongly by gusts at some British airports that pilots were forced to abandon landings. A live stream of Heathrow Airport’s runway was being watched by more than 200,000 people online.
A total of 436 flights were cancelled across the United Kingdom amid record winds from storm Eunice, according to Cirium data.
Troops on standby
More than 100,000 buildings were left without power, distributors said. Ferries and trains were cancelled.
“Storm Eunice – There will be NO Transport for Wales trains running on this date,” an announcement board said at Aberystwyth station. All trains in Kent, southern England, were cancelled.
“We are closing all routes in Kent, and all lines in SE London are blocked by trees,” Network Rail Kent & Sussex said.“Please do not travel.”
BA said it was cancelling a number of flights and that there would be significant disruption.
Danish ferry operator DFDS said in a statement posted on Twitter that its ferries between Dover and Calais have been suspended due to high winds.
In the Netherlands, Schiphol airport cancelled about 390 flights, a spokesman said.
Off the Belgian coast, two ships, one tanker and one cargo, were at one point adrift and got stuck in a windfarm. The cargo was safely towed away, without causing any damage, the tanker, carrying 31,000 tons of fuel, was still waiting for help.
In the Belgian town of Tournai, gusts of up to 130kmh sent a crane crashing onto the roof of a hospital.
There were no immediate reports of any deaths, though local media said there had been injuries, without going into further detail.
Images on social media showed the crane's tip crashed into the roof of the hospital and through the ceiling of the top floor.
Another piece fell on the ground in a building site close to the crane's base that stayed standing.
Britain’s security minister, Damian Hinds, said troops were on standby to deal with the consequences of the weather.
“We should all follow the advice and take precautions to keep safe,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said. “I thank responders for all their efforts.”