London: Millions of people battened down as Storm Eunice crashed into the United Kingdom with record-breaking winds on Friday, leaving the streets of London empty and disrupting flights, trains and ferries across Western Europe.
The UK capital was placed under its first ever ‘red’ weather warning, meaning there is danger to life, according to agency reports. The same level of alert was in place across southern England and South Wales, where schools were closed and transport systems paralysed.
Storm Eunice knocked out power to 80,000 homes and businesses in Ireland and more than 5,000 in Cornwall and Devon, southwest England, as towering waves damaged sea walls along the coast. One wind gust of 196 km per hour was measured on the Isle of Wight off southern England, “provisionally the highest gust ever recorded in England”, the UK Met Office said.
A large section of the roof on the Millennium Dome in southeast London was shredded by the high winds, while all trains in Wales, western England and Kent in southeast England were cancelled. Britain’s meteorological service also forecast heavy snow in Scotland and northern England.
High waves also battered the Brittany coast in northwest France. Long-distance and regional trains were being gradually halted in northern Germany, while warnings were also in place in Belgium, Denmark and Sweden. Ferries across the English Channel, the world’s busiest shipping lane, were cancelled, as were flights from northern Europe’s aviation hubs. Hundreds were cancelled or delayed at Heathrow and Gatwick in London, and Schiphol in Amsterdam.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has placed the British army on standby, tweeted: “We should all follow the advice and take precautions to keep safe.”
Another storm, Dudley, caused transport disruption and power outages when it hit Britain on Wednesday, although damage was not widespread. Experts said the frequency and intensity of the storms could not be linked necessarily to climate change, but that storms were causing more damage as a result.
“There is very little evidence that winds in these winter storms have gotten stronger with climate change,” said Richard Allan, professor of climate science at the University of Reading.
“Yet with more intense rainfall and higher sea levels as human-caused climate change continues to heat the planet, flooding from coastal storm surges and prolonged deluges will worsen still further when these rare, explosive storms hit us in a warmer world.”