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Power cuts, evacuations, as heavy storms sweep Europe

Story highlights

  • Thousands lose power at homes in Scotland, Northern Ireland; some power restored
  • England expecting its most serious coastal tidal surge in more than 60 years
  • Truck driver killed in collision as winds of up to 90 mph batter Scotland
  • Weather warning issued for Germany's North Sea coast; flights canceled in Netherlands

Strong winds and heavy rain battered Scotland and eastern England Thursday, disrupting rail and road traffic as northwestern Europe braced for heavy storms sweeping across the North Atlantic and North Sea.

A truck driver was killed in West Lothian, west of Edinburgh, when his truck overturned and struck other vehicles. Four others involved in the collision suffered minor injuries, Police Scotland said in a statement.

Farther south, England was facing the most serious coastal tidal surge in more than 60 years, the Environment Agency warned.

Residents in some towns and cities on the Norfolk coast were evacuating.

"In some areas, sea levels could be higher than those during the devastating floods of 1953," the agency said in a statement, although it said the flood defenses are better now than they were then.

The 1953 North Sea storm surge killed about 1,800 people in the Netherlands and more than 300 in the UK, according to the British Met Office.

Gales of up to 90 mph spread across the region. In some mountainous areas, wind speeds of more than 140 mph were recorded overnight, the Met Office said.

Operator ScotRail, suspended all service, as tracks were flooded or covered in debris, and motorists were advised to delay journeys. Some flights serving Scotland were also disrupted. In some cases, trees, factory roofs or giant hay bales had been blown onto rail lines.

Glasgow Central Station was evacuated after debris damaged the building's glass roof, said Nick King, a spokesman for Network Rail in Scotland.

The worst of the storm later passed in some areas, and train service in Scotland began to run again.

"It will be many hours yet before services return to near normal levels, and so the network in Scotland and the north of England will continue to be severely impacted by today's storm," British train operator Network Rail said in a statement, adding that hundreds of engineers were working to clear trees and other debris from rail lines.

High winds spark power cuts

Thousands of residents were being evacuated in the Great Yarmouth area in eastern England, Norfolk police said.

"Around 9,000 properties are being visited by police officers and staff over the next few hours to advise on plans for imminent evacuation," police said in a statement.

The strong winds also hit electricity networks.

Scottish and Southern Energy said engineers had restored power to around 33,000 customers and were working to get electricity back to 48,000 more in "extremely difficult conditions" after the gale-force winds.

"Access is being hampered by roads blocked by fallen trees and other wind borne debris," it said in a statement, adding that it expected most people to have their electricity supply restored by late evening.

Elsewhere, Northern Ireland Electricity said emergency crews had been working since morning to restore power to more than 25,000 homes. About 2,700 remained without electricity, it said.

British Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted that he had asked his environment minister to chair a special meeting on the storm disruption, adding that he was ensuring all government departments and agencies were "doing all they can to help with (the) storm."

Germany braces for severe storm

In Germany, the DWD weather service issued high-level warnings for northern coastal regions, expecting the storm to peak Thursday evening.

It said arctic polar air would stream into the country, but spokesman Andreas Friedrich said DWD did not expect as strong wind speeds as in Scotland.

"We don't expect the storm to be as bad in Germany, however it will be a severe storm nevertheless," he said.

He said wind speeds of up to 103 kilometers per hour (64 mph) were expected inland, rising to 140 kilometers per hour (87 mph) in the mountains.

"This is only the beginning, and the storm will pick up speed and strength throughout the day. We are expecting the peak to be tonight.

"It can be dangerous, and people should stay inside their houses, especially in the North and around the coast," Friedrich said.

In the Netherlands, KLM said it had canceled a significant number of flights to European destinations.