Europe's winter storm moves eastwards, disrupting travel
BERLIN (AP) — A strong winter storm that battered Britain with hurricane-force winds and heavy rains moved eastward Monday, causing severe travel disruption and an array of flood warnings as rivers burst their banks or were on the verge of doing so.
There were reports of deaths directly linked to the storm with one driver in south-western Czech Republic killed after his car was hit by a falling tree. A man also died early on Monday in the north of Slovenia when a tree fell on his car. And in Sweden, one man drowned late Sunday after the boat he and another person were sailing in on the southern lake of Fegen capsized. The victim was washed ashore and later died. The other person is still missing, according to the Aftonbladet daily.
Britain bore the brunt of storm on Sunday and more than 20,000 homes spent the night without power. Parts of the country were bracing for blizzards and snow on Monday.
“While Storm Ciara is clearing away, that doesn't mean we're entering a quieter period of weather,” said Alex Burkill, a meteorologist at the Met Office. “It's going to stay very unsettled.”
In the wake of the storm, many parts of the country were mopping up after a month and a half's rainfall fell in just 24 hours in some places and rivers burst their banks. Around 180 flood warnings remained in place across the country. The River Irwell burst its banks in northwest England and residents were evacuated.
In the Scottish town of Hawick, which borders England, a guest house and bistro collapsed into the River Teviot on Sunday. No one was injured.
Britain's transport networks were severely disrupted with flights, ferries and trains all seeing cancellations and delays. Drivers faced treacherous conditions with floodwater, fallen trees and other debris closing roads. Commuters were being urged to check their routes before traveling.
British Airways said in a statement that there will be a "minor knock-on effect" to Monday's schedule.
"We're getting in touch with those affected, and have brought in extra customer teams to help them with a range of options including a full refund or an alternative flight between now and Thursday," the airline said. “Any customer flying short-haul to or from Heathrow or Gatwick, can also choose to make changes to their travel plans if they would prefer to fly another time.”
On Sunday, the storm hit the Isle of Wight off the southern coast of Britain with gusts of 97 mph (156 kph). Propelled by its fierce winds, a British Airways plane was thought to have made the fastest New York-to-London flight by a conventional airliner, arriving 102 minutes early.
In Germany, utility companies were also scrambling to restore power to some 50,000 homes in northern Bavaria early Monday. Train travel across Europe's biggest economy was also severely disrupted, leaving many commuters unable to get to work. Deutsche Bahn said Monday it was slowly resuming long-distance rail services in the north of the country but warned travelers to expect further disruptions. Airlines canceled hundreds of flights from German airports.
The storm, which was dubbed Sabine in Germany, also led to school closures in several cities and regions, including Germany's North Rhine-Westphalia state, where several people were injured by falling branches and toppling trees.
Meteorologists expect gusts up to 140 kilometers per hour (87 mph) in mountainous areas of southern Germany later Monday.
About 96,000 households were also without electricity across the Czech Republic and at least seven flights from Prague’s international airport were cancelled, including the flights to Zurich, Munich, Frankfurt, Duesseldorf, London and Amsterdam.
An Airbus A320 operated by Qatar Airways was diverted from Prague to Vienna after the pilots were not able to land early Monday. Dozens of train routes were blocked due to trees on the tracks, while other trains are delayed.
Jovana Gec in Belgrade, Serbia, Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark and Karel Janicek in Prague, Czech Republic contributed to this report.