Death toll in Europe storm rises to 6 as winds blast Poland

By Wiktor Szary

WARSAW (Reuters) - The death toll from hurricane-force Storm Xaver sweeping across northern Europe rose to six on Friday when high winds hurled a tree limb against a car, killing three people, local emergency services said.

Xaver blasted into northern Europe late Thursday after disrupting transport and power in northern Britain and flooding east coast areas in what meteorologists said could prove the worst storm to hit the continent in years.

Two people were killed in Britain as winds reached speeds of 225 kilometers per hour (140 mph). A truck driver died when his vehicle overturned and a man was killed by a falling tree.

In western Denmark the 72-year-old female passenger of a truck died when the vehicle overturned in howling winds.

In Poland, three people died and one was injured in the town of Poraj when a tree limb was blown onto their car," Piotr Cholajda at the state firefighting headquarters said.

He said high winds had downed electricity lines, leaving more than 100,000 people around the eastern European country of 38 million without power.

The Polish Institute of Meteorology and Water Management forecast wind gusts on Friday of up to 110 kmh (68 mph) inland and up to 135 kmh (85 mph) off Poland's Baltic seacoast.

Poland's flagship airline LOT canceled some domestic and European flights on Friday due to "unexpected weather changes in Europe".

Thousands of Britons evacuated from their homes on low-lying east coast areas on Thursday were warned of further woes on Friday in the form of "exceptionally high tides" - the most serious tidal surge for more than 60 years.

Sea levels are higher in some areas than during devastating floods of 1953 that killed hundreds along the North Sea coast.

Speaking after an emergency government meeting on Friday, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said flood defenses strengthened since 1953 had protected more than 800,000 homes.

Almost 8,000 people remained without power in Scotland where 80,000 people lost electricity on Thursday, according to energy company SSE.

In Germany, about 4,000 people in the northern state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern had no power on Friday, schools were closed and about 70 flights at Hamburg airport were canceled.

Officials said floodwaters in the northern German port city of Hamburg rose to 6.09 meters above normal levels early on Friday, the highest level in decades. All 38 flood-gates in Hamburg were closed earlier on Friday.

A high-speed rail line running 300 km between Germany's two largest cities Hamburg and Berlin was blocked on Friday by debris on the tracks. Stranded passengers were transferred to buses, according to Deutsche Bahn officials.

(Additional reporting by Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk in Warsaw, Belinda Goldsmith in London, Erik Kirschbaum in Berlin,; Writing by Agnieszka Barteczko, Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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