London: Hurricane-force winds disrupted transport and power supplies in Scotland and threatened coastal flooding in England as they closed in on north Europe in what meteorologists said could be one of the most powerful storms to hit the continent in years. Winds of up to 142 miles (228 kilometres) per hour battered northern Britain while authorities evacuated residents and boosted flood defences in lowlying areas across the region.
Dozens of flights were cancelled or delayed in the Netherlands, Germany and Scotland, while rail services were shut down in several countries and one of Europe's longest bridges — connecting Sweden to Denmark — was to close.
Tens of thousands of homes were also left without power as so-called Storm Xaver tore through the area.
In Scotland, a lorry driver was killed when his vehicle toppled onto a number of cars near Edinburgh, while at least two other people were injured by falling trees, police said. Two sailors were reportedly swept overboard from a ship 14 miles off the southern Swedish coast on Thursday. Air-sea rescue services failed to find them.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said he had convened a meeting of the government's emergency committee to ensure necessary measures were being taken. The biggest fear across Europe was from a storm surge set to hit later on Thursday which will coincide with high tides in many areas.
British authorities said they had evacuated homes in Great Yarmouth, eastern England, and warned that people's lives could be at risk. They said it could be the biggest storm surge for 60 years.
In the Netherlands — where 27% of the country lies below sea-level — the landmark Eastern Scheldt storm surge barrier has been closed off for the first time in six years. The barrier was built after a storm in 1953 killed almost 2,000 people. Dutch authorities said they had issued the highest possible flood warning.
Belgium is expected to experience a storm surge of up to 6.1 metres, "the highest for 30 years," said Carl Decaluwe, the governor of West Flanders province. Germany reinforced emergency services in and around the northern port of Hamburg and cancelled lessons at several schools, while Swedish authorities also issued flood warnings.
The storm was causing transport chaos across northern Europe. Flights from Amsterdam, Hamburg, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen were cancelled. Rail travel was hit, with all train services in Scotland cancelled. Ferries to Germany from Sweden and Denmark were cancelled. AGENCIES