15 dead as Storm Ciaran batters Western Europe

More than 200 flights were cancelled at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, a major European hub, while some 1.2 million French homes lost electricity

By AFP

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Waves crash over Newhaven Lighthouse and the harbour wall in Newhaven, southern England on Thursday. — AP file
Waves crash over Newhaven Lighthouse and the harbour wall in Newhaven, southern England on Thursday. — AP file

Published: Fri 3 Nov 2023, 3:59 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Nov 2023, 8:39 PM

The death toll from Storm Ciaran rose to at least 15 across Western Europe on Friday, as heavy downpours and record winds brought chaos to land, sea and air travel.

At least five people died in Tuscany, Italian authorities announced on Friday, declaring a state of emergency as weather specialists reported record rainfall.

Another three people were killed off the coast of Portugal when a sailboat ran aground north of Lisbon in strong swells.

A person works to clear the way as a woman stands on a balcony with her dog in the aftermath of Storm Ciaran, in Campi Bisenzio, in Tuscany. — Reuters
A person works to clear the way as a woman stands on a balcony with her dog in the aftermath of Storm Ciaran, in Campi Bisenzio, in Tuscany. — Reuters

Tuscany governor Eugenio Giani said the five dead included an 85-year-old man who was found drowned on the ground floor of his house in Montemurlo, northwest of Florence.

"What happened tonight in Tuscany has a name: climate change," he wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Florence mayor Dario Nardella said the "situation is critical" in the city, as the level of the Arno River continued to rise.

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Trees felled by gale-force winds caused most of the deaths in Europe. In the Belgian city of Ghent, a five-year-old Ukrainian boy and a 64-year-old woman were killed by falling branches.

Falling trees had earlier killed a lorry driver in his vehicle in northern France's Aisne region, and French authorities also reported the death of a man who fell from his balcony in the port city of Le Havre.

A man in the Dutch town of Venray, a woman in central Madrid and a person in Germany also died.

French homes lose electricity

Some 1.2 million French homes lost electricity as the storm lashed the northwest coast. Almost 700,000 remained without power on Thursday evening, according to network manager Enedis.

French President Emmanuel Macron visited the storm-battered region of Brittany on Friday.

France's President Emmanuel Macron shakes hands with firefighters. — AFP
France's President Emmanuel Macron shakes hands with firefighters. — AFP

The storm interrupted rail, air and maritime traffic in Belgium where the port of Antwerp was closed and flights from Brussels were disrupted.

The wind gusts in the western Brittany region were "exceptional" and "many absolute records have been broken", national weather service Meteo-France said on X.

Waves crash on the 'Rocher de La Vierge' (Virgin Rock) as Storm Ciaran hits the region, in Biarritz, southwestern France. — AFP
Waves crash on the "Rocher de La Vierge" (Virgin Rock) as Storm Ciaran hits the region, in Biarritz, southwestern France. — AFP

The prefect for the local department said gusts as high as 207kmph (129mph) were recorded at Pointe du Raz on the tip of the northwest coast, while the port city of Brest saw winds hit 156kmph.

Schools closed, flights cancelled

In southern England, hundreds of schools were closed as large waves powered by winds of 135kmph crashed along the coastline.

On the Channel Island of Jersey, residents had to be evacuated to hotels overnight as gusts of up to 164 km/h damaged homes, according to local media.

More than 200 flights were cancelled at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, a major European hub.

Air, rail and ferry services saw cancellations and long delays across several countries.

A wave crashes on a dyke in Lomener, western France. — AFP
A wave crashes on a dyke in Lomener, western France. — AFP

The effects of the storm were felt as far south as Spain and Portugal, with Spanish authorities warning of waves as high as nine metres (29 feet) along the Atlantic coast.

In Spain, more than 80 flights were cancelled at 11 airports.

There was disappointment for the hardy athletes of the annual Dutch "headwind cycle championships" race.

They only hold their race along the Oosterscheldekering storm surge barrier in the western Netherlands if the wind is above a gale seven on the Beaufort Scale (up to 61 km/h).

But they finally met their match with Storm Ciaran and had to postpone it.

There were "many disappointed faces," organiser Robrecht Stoekenbroek told local agency ANP, vowing to go ahead when the storm passed.

The French weather service said storms would continue into Friday, notably in the southwest of the country and on the island of Corsica.

Rail services in western parts of the country would remain disrupted on Friday, said Transport Minister Clement Beaune.

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