Storm Eunice wreaks havoc as it crosses UK

Deaths from debris and falling trees with power outages as record wind speeds recorded

Many airplanes struggled to land in high winds at London's Heathrow airport on as Storm Eunice battered Britain. Video: Big Jet TV

Mainland Europe bore the brunt of Storm Eunice after it whipped through the UK on Friday, bringing chaos to millions.

Eunice brought damage, disruption and potentially record-breaking gusts of wind to the UK. A woman in her 30s died after a tree fell on a car in Haringey, north London, on Friday afternoon, the Metropolitan Police said.

A man in his 50s died in Netherton, Merseyside, after debris struck the windscreen of a vehicle he was travelling in, said Merseyside Police. A man in his 20s was killed in Alton, Hampshire, after a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter pick-up collided with a tree in Old Odiham Road just before midday. A number of other people suffered injuries when struck by debris.

Millions of people were urged to stay at home on Friday due to safety fears over the impact of Eunice, one of the worst storms to hit the UK in a generation, while transport woes meant many were unable to travel.

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Tens of thousands of homes remained without power across the UK and the transport network was severely impacted. London’s O2 arena was shut after parts of its roof were ripped off in high winds as the storm struck.

Winds of 196km/h were provisionally recorded at the Needles on the Isle of Wight, which, if verified, would be the highest ever recorded in England.

From England, the record-breaking gales began moving across the continent, hitting Belgium, the Netherlands and parts of northern France, and were expected to reach Denmark and Germany on Friday evening.

Flights cancelled

Dutch authorities issued a red weather warning and hundreds of flights were cancelled, while trains were halted on Friday afternoon. Three people were reported to have been killed after being hit by falling trees in the Netherlands. Pieces of the roof of the ADO The Hague football club stadium were blown off, authorities said.

Storm waves battered the Newhaven breakwater and lighthouse as Storm Eunice made landfall. It was the worst storm to hit the UK for three decades. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty

High winds sent a crane crashing onto the roof of a hospital in the Belgian town of Tournai on Friday. There were no immediate reports of any deaths, although local media said there had been injuries, without going into further detail.

Belgian authorities appealed to citizens to only venture out in an emergency, while in the northern French province of Brittany, 4m-high waves were reported and rail travel was curtailed.

In Denmark, trains were ordered to reduce speed and bridges and roads were closed in preparation for record winds.

In Germany, where the storm has been named Zeynep by meteorologists, it was expected to reach speeds of up to 160km/h and to last into the early hours of Saturday morning. In addition, a thunderstorm was expected to develop within the storm, meteorologists said.

High alert

The country, along with neighbouring Poland and the Czech Republic, is still reeling from storm Ylenia, which hit on Wednesday night, uprooting trees, overturning lorries and causing three deaths in Germany, including that of a 37-year-old man whose car was hit by a tree.

People play against the wind on the beach of Scheveningen in the Netherlands. There were very strong wind gusts of up to 120km/h. Photograph: Phil Nijhuis

Deutsche Bahn, the national train operator, cancelled regional and long-distance trains, as emergency services in parts of northern and western Germany, including North Rhine-Westphalia, Berlin, Brandenburg and Hamburg, were put on high alert. A spokesperson for DB described the weather warnings as "severe" and urged travellers to delay their journeys, promising that the validity of their tickets would be extended.

The German meteorological service (DWD) declared a level-three storm warning for the whole country, and the highest level-four warning for the entire 1,300km-long North Sea coast. On the North Sea islands, winds were expected to reach speeds as high as 170km/h.

DWD called the storms “life-threatening” due mainly to flying objects such as falling trees. People were urged to close doors and windows and to secure all movable objects including garden furniture, bikes and portable bins.

DWD has predicted widespread flooding in the coming days, particularly in the port cities of Cuxhaven and Hamburg, which was also badly hit by Wednesday's storm. Authorities said they were braced for water levels to rise 3m above their usual height and put officials on standby to observe all dykes in the region. – Guardian/PA/Reuters