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.


Korean relatives bid emotional farewell after reunions

Updated 22 August 2018
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Korean relatives bid emotional farewell after reunions

  • The first set of reunions created heart-wrenching images of relatives weeping, embracing and caressing each other in a rush of emotions
  • Many of the South Korean participants were war refugees who reunited with the siblings or infant children they left behind

SEOUL, South Korea: Hundreds of elderly Koreans tearfully said their final goodbyes Wednesday at the end of the first round of rare reunions between relatives separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.
About 200 South Koreans and their family members will return to the South later Wednesday after the end of three days of meetings with North Korean relatives at the North’s Diamond Mountain resort. Another 337 South Koreans will participate in a second round of reunions from Friday to Sunday.
The first set of reunions created heart-wrenching images of relatives weeping, embracing and caressing each other in a rush of emotions in what’s likely to be the last time they’ll see each other before they die. Many of the South Korean participants were war refugees who reunited with the siblings or infant children they left behind, many of whom are now into their 70s.
At their final lunch meeting on Wednesday before the South Koreans were to return home, 91-year-old Lee Ki-soon seemed lost for words as he quietly drank a glass of soju with his 75-year-old North Korean son.
Nearby, Ri Chol, a 61-year-old North Korean, quietly wept as he grasped the hands of a 93-year-old South Korean grandmother he was only just getting to know.
“Don’t cry, Chol,” Kwon Seok, also in tears, told her grandson.
An Jong Sun, a 70-year-old North Korean, carefully fed her 100-year-old South Korean father food. Han Shin-ja, 99, told her two North Korean daughters to eat a lot of “chap-ssal,” or sticky rice, for health. The daughters cried as Han told them she would always pray for their happiness and also for the future of her North Korean great-grandchildren she never got to see.
Some relatives exchanged their phone numbers and home addresses, although the Koreas since the end of the war have banned ordinary citizens from visiting relatives on the other side of the border or contacting them without permission.
Shin Jae-cheon, a 92-year-old from the South Korean town of Gimpo, not far from the border, lamented that his 70-year-old North Korean sister lived about an hour’s drive away all these years.
“It will take 40 minutes for me to drive there,” Shin told his sister, Sin Kum Sun, who lives in the North Korean border town of Kaesong. “The bus that goes to my home is No. 8. No. 8. The No. 8 bus,” Shin added, expressing a wish for his sister to come visit one day.
Nearly 20,000 people have participated in 20 rounds of face-to-face reunions held between the countries since 2000. No one has had a second chance to see their relatives.
The latest reunions come after a three-year hiatus during which North Korea conducted three nuclear tests and multiple missile launches that demonstrated a potential capability to strike the US mainland. Analysts say the North still has some work to do before those missiles are perfected, however. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has shifted toward diplomacy in 2018 and has met South Korean President Moon Jae-in twice and also held a summit with President Donald Trump.
While Seoul has long pushed for more reunions, analysts say North Korea is reluctant because of fears that increasing their frequency will loosen its authoritarian control and relinquish a coveted bargaining chip.