Sea foam whipped up by high winds in Blackpool northwest England as a storm lashed Britain with violent storm-force winds of up to 100mph, leaving thousands of homes without power and hitting transport links Wednesday. (Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Severe storm batters western Europe, British Isles

LONDON — A violent storm packing winds of up to 100 miles per hour battered many parts of western Europe Wednesday, wreaking havoc on transport and leaving hundreds of thousands of homes across France, Switzerland, Britain and Ireland without power.

In Switzerland, the storm cancelled flights at Zurich and Basel airports and toppled a truck on a Swiss highway. Thousands of households at Lake Zurich were left without power, and firefighters were called to help with toppled trees blocking streets and flooding due to heavy rains.

In England, the storm brought hail and lightning and closed some bridges and road. Extremely high tides caused the partial collapse of a harbour wall in Cornwall in southwestern England, bringing seawater flooding in.

Overturned vehicles forced officials to close portions of three major highways in England. The country’s main weather forecaster, the Met Office, says gusts reached 100 mph in Cumbria, 280 miles (450 kilometres) northwest of London, early Wednesday morning when the storm peaked.

The storm then crossed the English Channel to damage power systems in France and Germany. Forecasters said gusts of up to 80 mph are possible Wednesday.

France’s national electricity provider says it left some 200,000 households without electricity across the country, including 30,000 in the Paris region.

The windstorm battered northern France with winds surpassing 90 mph — some of the worst winds to hit France in years. Many posted photos of destroyed cars, collapsed scaffolding and uprooted trees on social media.

In the Paris region a falling tree hit a car and seriously injured one person, while another resident was seriously hurt falling from a building. In total, the Interior Ministry said nine people in France were injured, with four said to be in serious condition following accidents caused by the winds.

Strong winds also caused problems at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, with slight delays stemming from precautions being taken to safely get travellers into aircraft.

In Germany, zoos were closed, roads were flooded and a train derailed as the storm battered many regions.

The German news agency dpa reported Wednesday that a train derailed near Luenen in western Germany when it crashed against a tree that had fallen on the tracks. No injuries were reported.

Highways near Duisburg and Juelich in the west were also partially blocked because of toppled trees and flooding.

The zoos in Munich and Augsburg in Bavaria closed for the day and the rack railway leading up on Germany’s tallest mountain, the Zugspitze, was also shut down because of the storm.

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