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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 January 2007, 22:34 GMT
Huge storms sweep northern Europe
Huge waves pound the port of Wimereux, northern France
Huge waves pound the port of Wimereux, northern France

At least 25 people have been killed as violent storms lashed northern Europe, causing travel chaos across the region.

Britain was the worst hit with nine people killed as rain and gusts of up to 99mph (159km/h) swept the country.

Hurricane-force winds battering Germany have claimed at least seven lives. The other deaths were reported in France, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands.

The severe weather has forced hundreds of flight, rail and ferry cancellations and prompted road and school closures.

Meteorologists at London's Met Office said the winds reached "severe gale force" as they crossed Britain and were the highest recorded since January 1990.

They warned the weather system would intensify as it moved east across the continent - with Denmark, the Netherlands and Germany expected to be worst hit overnight.

A fireman removes a tree which destroyed a car in Dresden, Germany
Britain: 9
Germany: 7
The Netherlands: 4
Czech Republic: 3
France: 2

Winds of almost 105mph (170km/h) were recorded late on Thursday in Germany, prompting the national rail company to suspend all its services, leaving passengers stranded.

The head of German railways said the situation was unprecedented. Air traffic too has been badly affected with many flights cancelled. There has also been reports of flooding.

German meteorologists said the storm was shaping up to be the worst in five years and authorities have warned people to stay indoors.

More than 40,000 volunteers are on standby to help the fire brigade deal with the widespread damage that is anticipated.

Among the casualties so far is an 18-month-old child in Munich crushed to death by a door blown from its hinges.

Many of the fatalities across Europe were the result of traffic accidents and falling debris. In London a two-year-old boy also died when a wall collapsed on him.

'Stay indoors'

Tens of thousands of homes are reported to be without power.

The crew of the abandoned MS Napoli are rescued by a helicopter

In the Netherlands, as in Germany, people have been advised to stay indoors.

"Our country has not had a storm like this in years. We advise you to follow weather alarms and messages to the letter," the Netherlands' Royal Weather Service said.

Austria has forecast winds of up to 105mph (170km/h) at higher altitudes in the Alps, and officials warned skiers to get off the mountains and seek shelter before nightfall.

In other developments:

  • A British container ship is listing in the English Channel almost 50 miles (80km) off Cornwall - all 26 crew of the MSC Napoli abandoned ship
  • US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice cuts short her visit to Berlin in order to leave for London before weather worsened
  • London's Heathrow Airport, Europe's largest, cancels 130 flights. Other major airports including Frankfurt, Munich, Amsterdam and Vienna report delays and cancellations
  • The Eurostar train service between Paris, Brussels and London is briefly suspended
  • Ferries are cancelled or delayed in Britain, Ireland, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Finland
  • Residents along the North Sea coast are warned to expect storm swells up to 3.5m (11.5ft) higher than normal

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