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.


Macron, Merkel seek common approaches to Trump, euro

Updated 19 min 29 sec ago
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Macron, Merkel seek common approaches to Trump, euro

  • Macron urged European government to seize more responsibility for their own fate, especially regarding defense

FRANKFURT: French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel consulted Sunday on migration, fixing the euro currency, Europe’s defense, taxing digital companies and other issues as the two leaders looked to preserve their influence abroad while their authority flags at home.
Macron, who came to Berlin to take part in Germany’s national remembrance day for the victims of war and dictatorship, urged European government to seize more responsibility for their own fate, especially regarding defense.
Macron said that the French-German alliance “is invested with this obligation not to allow the world to slide into chaos, and to accompany it on the road of peace.”
He said that Europe can’t play its role “if it doesn’t take more responsibility for its defense and security and is content to play a secondary role on the international scene.”
The two biggest countries in Europe can be a powerful force, but their leaders at the moment are hampered by falling domestic support. Macron has seen his poll ratings sag at home, where more than a quarter-million people protested Saturday over proposed gas tax hikes. Merkel has been a lame duck since saying she wouldn’t seek another term.
Merkel has offered support for Macron’s proposal for a European army. Both leaders have said Europe needs to depend less on others — such as the US — for its defense.
US President Donald Trump has unsettled NATO allies by demanding member countries either pay more for defense or “protect themselves,” as he put it in a recent tweet.
However, ceremonial appearances and warm words offered ahead of a December summit on the euro can’t hide the persistent friction between the French and German approaches to the European Union’s economic issues.
Germany and France have apparently struck a deal on a common budget for the EU countries that use the shared euro currency, something Macron pushed for. German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz told the dpa news agency the proposal was to be presented to European finance ministers Monday.
The size of the budget — mentioned by French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire as 20 to 25 billion euros — is far short of Macron’s idea. The amount is only 0.2 percent of the eurozone economy, less than the several percentage points of gross domestic product originally mentioned by Macron.
The compromise underscores German reluctance to sign off on anything seen as transferring taxpayer money from richer countries like Germany to more fiscally shaky ones such as Italy or Greece.
The European summit in December is to take up limited proposals to strengthen the euro currency, such as upgrading the eurozone’s bailout fund and a long-term road map for introducing EU-level deposit insurance.
The two sides can’t agree on a tax on digital companies such as Amazon and Google. The French and the European Commission have proposed imposing such a tax, but Scholz said the issue should be left with the 36-member Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
A European army would be a long-term prospect. Macron was advocating that Europe do more for its own defense, putting him on the same page in many ways with Trump.