Severe storm batters western Europe; 1 dead, 23 injured

Waves crash against the seafront of Wimereux, northern France, as storm Eleanor hits the northern part of France (AFP)
Updated 03 January 2018
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Severe storm batters western Europe; 1 dead, 23 injured

LONDON: A violent storm packing winds up to 100 mph (160 kph) battered parts of western Europe on Wednesday, derailing trains, toppling trees and halting flights. Authorities said one person was killed and at least 23 others were injured in France and Switzerland.
The high winds played havoc on transport, derailing trains in Switzerland and Germany and leaving hundreds of thousands of homes across France, Switzerland, Britain and Ireland without power.
Officials said one skier was killed in the French Alps after being hit by a falling tree in Morillon in Haute-Savoie.
Several people were injured Wednesday when a train was blown off the tracks near Lenk, a town south of Bern, the Swiss capital, local media reported. In western Germany, a train derailed near Luenen when it crashed into a tree that had fallen onto the tracks, according to the dpa news agency. No injuries were reported.
The storm forced the cancelation of 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 rain.
Swiss police say several people were stuck inside a cable car in the skiing resort of Pizol in the Swiss Alps. Ski lifts were also halted at many Swiss resorts.
In England, the storm brought hail and lightning. Overturned vehicles forced officials to close portions of three major highways. Some bridges were also shut down.
Extremely high tides caused the partial collapse of a harbor wall in Cornwall in southwestern England, bringing seawater flooding in.
The country’s main weather forecaster, the Met Office, says gusts reached 100 mph in Cumbria, 280 miles (450 kilometers) northwest of London, early Wednesday.
The storm battered northern France with winds surpassing 90 mph (145 kph) some of the worst gusts to hit the country in years. Many people posted photos of destroyed cars, collapsed scaffolding and uprooted trees on social media.
France’s national electricity provider says the storm left some 200,000 households without electricity, including 30,000 in the Paris region.

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 all, the Interior Ministry said 15 people in France were injured, with four in serious condition, following accidents caused by high winds.
Strong winds also caused delays at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, as extra precautions were taken to safely get travelers into aircraft.
In Germany, highways near Duisburg and Juelich in the west were partially blocked because of toppled trees and flooding. The zoos in Munich and Augsburg in Bavaria closed for the day and the railway going up Germany’s tallest mountain, the Zugspitze, was shut down because of the storm.
In neighboring Austria, a ski jumping practice in Innsbruck was canceled due to the strong winds and snow.


Macedonia getting closer to solving name row with Greece

Updated 2 min 34 sec ago
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Macedonia getting closer to solving name row with Greece

  • Macedonian PM Zoran Zaev: “I believe that we have never had better circumstances to find a complete solution that will last for centuries and will remain forever.”
  • Athens objects to Macedonia’s name because it has its own northern province called Macedonia, and fears it may imply territorial ambitions.

SKOPJE: Macedonia has never been closer to solving its 25-year name row with Greece, but even if it fails Skopje will continue to integrate with Europe, its premier says.
“I believe that we have never had better circumstances to find a complete solution that will last for centuries and will remain forever,” Prime Minister Zoran Zaev told AFP in an interview.
The long-running name dispute between Macedonia and EU-member Greece dates back to 1991 when Skopje declared independence following the collapse of communist Yugoslavia.
Athens objects to Macedonia’s name because it has its own northern province called Macedonia, and fears it may imply territorial ambitions.
“If the dispute is not solved, the world will not end,” Zaev said.
“We will bring Europe here to Skopje (the capital). And we will push an European agenda one way or another.”
Because of the dispute, Macedonia was forced to join the United Nations under the name the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).
Greek veto threats have also hampered Skopje’s bid to become a member of the European Union and the NATO military alliance.
UN mediated talks to settle the row have resumed since Zaev’s Social Democrats won elections last year, ousting the nationalist VMRO-DPMNE party of Nikola Gruevski after more than ten years in power.
The negotiations have made progress after Macedonia agreed in February to change the name of the capital’s Alexander the Great airport to Skopje International Airport, in a goodwill gesture to Greece.
Macedonia had also been accused of appropriating symbols and figures that are historically considered part of Greek culture, such as Alexander the Great.
The motorway linking Macedonia with Greece was also renamed the Friendship Highway.
Zaev said he was “satisfied” that “a huge part of the issues” between Macedonia and Greece had been solved and that he was optimistic about a final deal.
He has previously said an agreement could be reached by the summer. However, the 43-year-old declined to go into details about the ongoing talks, saying “it could destroy the entire process.”
Earlier this week the European Commission recommended opening EU accession talks with Skopje, an EU candidate since 2005, in a development Zaev described as “encouraging.”
“This is a message of open doors. That is very important for Macedonia,” he said, adding that more than 75 percent of Macedonians are in favor of the country’s integration into the EU and NATO.
However, “that does not mean that we should not improve cooperation with other countries, including the Russian Federation,” Zaev said.
Russia has openly objected to the aspirations of fellow Slavic countries in the Balkans to join NATO, most recently when Montenegro became a member in mid-2017.
“I want to improve cooperation with Russia,” Zaev said.
“(But) the Russian Federation should know that for us there is no alternative to NATO and the European Union. We will remain focused on that path. That is our absolute right, our expectation and how we view the future of this country and the people that live here.”