Storm leaves trail of destruction in Europe

22:44, Dec 07 2013
Europe storm
Collapsed houses lie on the beach after a storm surge in Hemsby, eastern England.
Europe storm
The surge pounds Eyemouth Harbour during the overnight high tide in Scotland.
Europe storm
Thousands of people were evacuated from their homes as a deadly winter storm and the highest tidal surge in 60 years hit east coast towns.
Europe storm
Environmental workers inspect the damage on the Esplanade after a storm surge in Cromer, eastern England.
Europe storm
Council workers check the flood defences as the river Esk swells after a tidal surge in Mussleburgh, Scotland.

Hundreds of people in Britain are mopping up after a powerful storm that scoured northern Europe with hurricane-force gusts kicked up the biggest tidal surge in 60 years, swamping stretches of shoreline.

The rising seas prompted evacuations along the eastern English coast, with 1,400 properties flooded and at least a half-dozen communities at great risk of exceptionally high tides and large waves.

In London, the Thames Barrier - a series of huge metal plates that can be raised across the entire river- closed for a second time in as many days to protect the city from the surge.

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said there would be "exceptionally high tides" over the weekend, though they were not expected to reach yesterday's levels, when water swamped seaside promenades and flooded homes.

In the town of Hemsby in eastern England, several houses fell into the sea as waves eroded cliffs.

Britain's Environment Agency said that sea levels in some areas exceeded those in a 1953 flood in which hundreds died. But flood defences and evacuation warnings meant that only two people were killed in storm-related accidents.

Accidents linked to the storm that roared across Europe have killed at least eight people, from Britain to Sweden, Denmark and Poland.

Traffic ground to a halt on icy highways and train service was cancelled in large parts of Sweden. Tens of thousands of people lost electricity. Strong winds knocked down the city of Vaxjo's Christmas tree.

Scores of flights were cancelled at airports in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Germany and Poland. More than 1,000 people spent the night at Copenhagen airport where almost 300 flights were cancelled.

Strong winds threatened a collection of Viking ships recovered from the bottom of a Danish fjord in the 1960s and put on exhibition. Museum workers boarded up the expansive windows of the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde 40 kilometres west of Copenhagen amid fears water from the fjord would rise and shatter the glass.

Police in Denmark ordered the evacuation of people in the towns of Frederikssund and Frederiksvaerk, northeast of Copenhagen, because of imminent flooding. The towns lie on the Roskilde fjord, which has seen water levels rise noticeably.

Hamburg airport, where almost all flights were cancelled on Thursday, was open for business on Friday but cautioned that there would be cancellations because of wind and snow. Trains northward from Hamburg to Denmark and some other destinations were canceled.

Tidal floods that hit Hamburg in the early morning were akin to those that drenched the city in 1962, causing the worst flooding in living memory. But higher and better coastal defenses along the North Sea these days meant the impact of this week's storm on the city was negligible, with no reports of major damage or loss of life.

A further tidal surge is expected to hit Hamburg today.

Soccer club Werder Bremen, whose game on Saturday against German champion Bayern Munich had been in doubt, announced on Twitter that flood water hadn't topped a levee near its stadium and the match would go ahead.

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AP