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Trains, flights and ferries cancelled as Storm Ciara batters northwest Europe

Waves crash against a lighthouse during Storm Ciara at Boulogne-sur-Mer, France, on February 9, 2020.
Waves crash against a lighthouse during Storm Ciara at Boulogne-sur-Mer, France, on February 9, 2020. © Pascal Rossignol, REUTERS

Trains, flights and ferries have been cancelled and weather warnings issued across much of northwestern Europe on Sunday as a storm with hurricane-level winds battered the region.

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Storm Ciara was expected to pack winds of up to 145 kilometers per hour (90 miles per hour) as well as heavy rains, according to the Met agency in Britain, the country worst hit so far.

The agency has issued 123 emergency flood warnings and 159 flood watch alerts. Gusts of 138 km/h were already recorded at Capel Curig in Wales.

At least 10 rail companies in Britain sent out “do not travel” warnings, and nearly 20 others told passengers to expect delays. The strong winds damaged electrical wires and littered train tracks with broken tree limbs and other debris, including a family trampoline.

London's Heathrow Airport and several airlines consolidated flights Sunday to reduce the number cancelled by heavy winds. British Airways offered to rebook customers for domestic and European flights out of Heathrow, Gatwick and London City airports. Virgin Airlines canceled some flights.

High waves in the Irish Sea and the English Channel forced ferry companies to cancel trips, and the key English port of Dover suspended services.

In Ireland, power was knocked to an estimated 10,000 homes, farms and businesses. National weather agency Met Eireann warned that a combination of spring high tides, high seas and stormy conditions had created a significant risk of coastal flooding, particularly along the west and northwest.

Winds pummel northern France

Across the Channel, most of northern France was placed under high alert, with residents urged to stay away from woodlands and the coastline.

Parks in cities like Lille were closed to the public, as were seaside promenades in Calais, Boulogne-sur-Mer and other coastal resorts.


Winds were expected to strengthen to 120 km/h overnight Sunday, with Brittany, Normandy, the Ardennes and Lorraine bearing the brunt of the storm.

The high winds could make tough going for the rugby match in northern Paris between hosts France and visitors Italy at 4pm local time at the Stade de France, part of the Six Nations annual tournament.

Football authorities were still mulling whether to cancel a football match between heavyweights Paris Saint-Germain and Lyon, scheduled for later in the evening.

Flights cancelled

In Belgium, the Royal Meteorological Institute issued an alert for Sunday of winds reaching 130 km/h, or more, with the risk of property damage nationwide.

Some sixty flights departing or arriving at Brussels Airport have been cancelled as a precaution, according to an airport spokesman, who said further delays were possible.

In Brussels, woods and parks will be closed Sunday and Monday.

The Belgium football league has announced postponements for championship matches that had been scheduled for Sunday, while four top-flight matches have also been postponed in the neighbouring Netherlands.

Ciara has led to flight cancellations and delays at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport and in Frankfurt, two of Europe's largest hubs.

In Germany, where the storm is known as “Sabine”, the national railway operator, Deutsche Bahn, said it was cancelling long-distance trains to destinations most at risk from the storm, including Emden and Norddeich in the country's northwestern corner, the northern city of Kiel and the North Sea island of Sylt.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP)
 

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