Strong winds cause damage, disruptions in western Europe

PARIS (AP) — A powerful autumn storm, named Aurore, blasted parts of western Europe on Thursday, knocking out power to a quarter of a million French homes and damaging buildings in at least four countries.

Train services were disrupted by uprooted trees littering tracks in France, Germany and the Netherlands and roofs were ripped off many buildings, including at part of the stadium used by the professional soccer club in the Belgian port city of Antwerp.

A tornado early Thursday caused damage in Schwentinental, a town near the German Baltic Sea port city of Kiel. Fire service official Kai Laessig told German news agency dpa that it destroyed greenhouses and brought down trees, which hit cars, but no one was injured. Several houses were damaged.

Local media reported that four people were injured in the Dutch town of Barendrecht, on the southern edge of Rotterdam, as strong gusts ripped tiles off roofs and uprooted trees in a residential neighborhood in the early hours of the morning.

The storm also hit parts of southern England with heavy rainfall and strong winds.

The storm that started by hitting the French region of Brittany’s Atlantic Coast Wednesday afternoon blew eastward through the night, felling trees and collapsing roofs in some areas, according to images posted online. France’s national weather service maintained storm warnings Thursday in the country’s northeastern corner that borders Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg.

Wind speeds reached 175 kilometers per hour (109 mph) in the Normandy town of Fecamp, according to the weather service.

Blown-down trees toppled power lines, and the Enedis utility said 250,000 homes were without electricity as of Thursday morning.

Train travel was disrupted in Normandy and Champagne-Ardennes region, as well as on some commuter routes in the Paris region, according to the SNCF national rail authority.

The Dutch rail network also was disrupted Thursday morning by trees that had blown onto railroad tracks.

Germany’s national railway operator, Deutsche Bahn, suspended all long-distance trains in North Rhine-Westphalia state – the country’s most populous, which borders the Netherlands and Belgium. The company said there were cancelations and delays in other parts of Germany as well.

Firefighters in the Belgian town of Westerhoek, close to the Dutch border, tweeted that they had been called out dozens of times over night to deal with storm damage.

The storm hit northern Belgium hard around Antwerp, snapping countless trees, spilling scaffolding onto the streets and blowing some trucks off roads. It also tore off part of the roof of Antwerp FC’s stadium.

Germany’s national weather service warned of gusts ranging up to 105 kph (65 mph) in the north and northeast of the country on Thursday, and up to 120 kph in mountainous areas. But there were no immediate reports of significant damage.

In Delmenhorst, in northwestern Germany, a man was hit by a falling branch on Wednesday evening but only slightly injured. During the night, a freight train collided with a fallen branch in Bad Godesberg, a suburb of Bonn.

Berlin’s two zoos closed as a precaution for the day because of the forecast high winds and the animals were brought into indoor enclosures. In Erfurt, in central Germany, cemeteries were closed as a precaution.

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