Flights axed and floods feared as Storm Ciara clobbers Europe

By Kylie MacLellan

LONDON (Reuters) – Storm Ciara lashed Britain and northern continental Europe with heavy rain and wind speeds that reached more than 90 miles an hour (145 kph) in places on Sunday, forcing the cancellation of hundreds of flights, train services and sports matches.

More than 200 flood warnings were issued across Britain, which recorded a maximum wind speed of 93 miles an hour at Aberdaron in Wales. One severe flood warning was put in place in Yorkshire, northern England, where water was predicted to overflow flood defenses and potentially threaten lives.

The storm caused major disruption to transport across the region; in the Netherlands, around 240 flights to and from Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, one of Europe’s busiest, were canceled as Ciara roared in off the Atlantic with gusts of up to 74 mph (120 kph).

In Germany, where Ciara was named Sabine, about 180 flights to and from Frankfurt airport – about 15% of all planned flights – were axed. Lufthansa <LHAG.DE>, Germany’s largest carrier, said it would cancel short and long-haul flights from Munich airport on Monday until 1200 GMT and 1300 GMT, respectively.

Lufthansa’s budget unit Eurowings said it had suspended flight operations at Hamburg, Berlin, Hanover, Dortmund, Duesseldorf, Cologne and Stuttgart. Meanwhile, some British domestic and international flights were also canceled, from airports including Heathrow and Gatwick.

Train services also fell victim to Ciara’s wrath.

German railway operator Deutsche Bahn warned of severe disruptions and said it would stop long-distance train travel across Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, in the evening.

Britain’s Network Rail said the weather had caused problems across its network, with fallen power lines, trees and even trampolines blocking tracks, and warned people not to travel unless they had to.

SPORT DISRUPTED

All shipping movements in and out of Britain’s Port of Dover on the south coast were suspended and the Humber Bridge in northern England was closed to all traffic for only the second time since it opened in 1981.

London’s eight royal parks, home to more than 170,000 trees, were closed and even the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, a tourist draw, was also canceled.

Sporting events were also hit; Manchester City said its English Premier League soccer match against West Ham was postponed due to “extreme and escalating weather conditions”, while Scotland’s Women’s Six Nations rugby match against England was among the other matches canceled.

All professional Dutch soccer matches were canceled, along with most outdoor sporting events.

(Reporting by Kylie MacLellan in London, Christoph Steitz in Frankfurt and Anthony Deutsch in Amsterdam; Editing by Pravin Char)

More dead expected in destroyed Florida Panhandle towns after Michael

A man carries food and water past a building damaged by Hurricane Michael in Parker, Florida, U.S., October 13, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

By Rod Nickel

MEXICO BEACH, Fla. (Reuters) – Dozens of people remained missing on Sunday in Florida Panhandle communities reduced to ruins by Hurricane Michael as rescuers said they expected the death toll to rise and survivors grappled with power outages and shortages of food and water.

A destroyed home is pictured following Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Florida, U.S., October 13, 2018. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

A destroyed home is pictured following Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Florida, U.S., October 13, 2018. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Already at least 18 deaths in four states have been blamed on the hurricane as rescue crews using cadaver dogs and heavy equipment searched through collapsed homes in small towns such as Mexico Beach and Panama City for more victims.

So far one person has been confirmed killed in Mexico Beach, which took a direct hit from the massive storm, but rescuers have been hobbled by blocked roads and huge piles of rubble from searching much of the town.

“If we lose only one life, to me that’s going to be a miracle,” Mexico Beach Mayor Al Cathey told local media.

Cathey said more than 250 residents had stayed behind when Michael came ashore on Wednesday as a Category 4 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, one of the most powerful storms to make landfall in the continental United States since records have been kept.

A man walks out of his home following Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Florida, U.S., October 13, 2018. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

A man walks out of his home following Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Florida, U.S., October 13, 2018. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

The mayor told ABC News that 46 people out of the town of some 1,000 remained missing or unaccounted for as of Sunday. Search and rescue volunteers have already located hundreds of people initially reported missing last week across the Panhandle.

Florida Governor Rick Scott, who toured the devastated areas by helicopter with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)officials, said the top priority remained search and rescue efforts.

Scott said crews were also distributing food, water and fuel to residents who have faced long lines for supplies.

More than 1,700 search and rescue workers were deployed, Scott’s office said, including seven swift-water rescue teams and nearly 300 ambulances.

In Panama City, one of the hardest-hit communities, Fire Chief Alex Baird said search and rescue teams were now in “recovery mode” after largely giving up hope of finding any more survivors.

Electricity and telephone service were being slowly restored, but it could be weeks before power is restored to the state’s most damaged areas.

A destroyed boat is pictured following Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Florida, U.S., October 13, 2018. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

A destroyed boat is pictured following Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Florida, U.S., October 13, 2018. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Two Florida prisons housing a total of nearly 3,000 inmates were evacuated and closed at least temporarily after suffering structural damage from Michael, the Florida Department of Corrections said.

The department said no staff or inmates were injured during the storm and all had access to sufficient food and water.

President Donald Trump is expected to visit both Florida and Georgia early this week to inspect the damage, accompanied by first lady Melania Trump, and the White House said late on Saturday the president was fully committed to helping state and local agencies with the recovery.

(Reporting by Rod Nickel; Additional reporting by Devika Krishna Kumar in Port St. Joe, Florida, Bernie Woodall in Florida, Rich McKay in Atlanta and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Sandra Maler)