BERLIN (AP) — Rail passengers in parts of Germany faced disruption ahead of Christmas Friday as a storm swept across northern Europe, downing trees and prompting warnings of flooding on the North Sea coast. A woman died after a falling Christmas tree in neighboring Belgium.
National railway operator Deutsche Bahn said there were cancellations on routes from Hamburg and Hanover to Frankfurt and Munich, among other disruptions, while long-distance services from Hamburg north to Kiel and Flensburg were not running.
The company said falling trees damaged overhead power lines or blocked tracks largely in northern Germany, but also in the central state of Hesse.
There were some delays late Thursday evening at Germany's busiest Frankfurt Airport, German news agency dpa reported, although there were no cancellations due to the storm and the airport operator said it was business as usual on Friday morning.
In Hamburg, the Elbe River flooded streets around the city's fish market, waist-deep in some places. German authorities on Friday warned of storm surge heights of three meters (about 10 feet) or more above average high tide in parts of the North Sea coast.
A 20-metre (65-foot) Christmas tree fell on three people in a busy market in Oudenaarde, western Belgium, late Thursday night, killing a 63-year-old woman and injuring two other people.
"Gusts of wind and heavy rain ensured that the tree fell," Mayor Marnic de Meulemeester said. The Christmas market was immediately cancelled.
In the Netherlands, roads around ports in some North Sea towns, including the Hague's seaside suburb of Scheveningen, were flooded overnight. A woman was seriously injured by a falling tree on Thursday in the eastern town of Wilp, not far from the coast.
The huge Meslantkering storm barrier protecting Rotterdam from high sea levels closed automatically for the first time due to high water levels – meaning all six major storm barriers protecting the lower Netherlands were closed at the same time . The country's water and infrastructure authority said it was also a first. By Friday morning, all six barriers had reopened as winds subsided.
Flights were stopped due to strong winds on Thursday in some parts of the UKTrain services suspended and Scottish ferries closed.
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