Five people were killed by falling trees in Storm Ciaran
Ripped-up trees caused electricity blackouts and at least one death in France. AFP

Five people were killed by falling trees as Storm Ciaran battered Western Europe on Thursday, bringing record winds as high as 200 kilometres per hour, floods, blackouts and major travel disruptions.

Some 1.2 million French homes lost electricity overnight as the storm lashed the northwest coast, and most remained without power on Thursday.

Falling trees killed a lorry driver in his vehicle in France's Aisne region, a man in the Dutch town of Venray, a woman in central Madrid, a person in Germany and another person in the Belgian city of Ghent, according to police reports.

"The wind gusts are exceptional in Brittany and many absolute records have been broken," Meteo-France, the national weather service, said on X (formerly Twitter).

The prefect for the local department said gusts as high as 207 km/h were recorded at Pointe du Raz on the tip of the northwest coast, while the port city of Brest saw winds hit 156 km/h.

In southern England, hundreds of schools were closed as large waves powered by winds of 135 km/hour crashed along the coastline.

On the Channel Island of Jersey, residents had to be evacuated to hotels overnight as gusts of up to 164 km/hour damaged homes, according to local media.

The Netherlands urged people to stay home and more than 200 flights were cancelled at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, a major European hub.

Air, rail and ferry services saw cancellations and long delays across several countries.

Roosmarijn Knol, weather forecaster for Dutch public broadcaster NOS, said the timing of the storm was important.

"Due to a warm autumn with a lot of rain, trees still have their leaves, and the ground is as wet as a sponge," said Knol.

"Therefore, especially weak trees have a good chance of falling over. That is a big difference from an autumn storm at, say, the end of November, when all the leaves have already fallen."

Britain's Environment Agency warned of "significant flooding along parts of the south coast and along parts of the Yorkshire and Northeast coasts".

The effects of the storm were felt as far south as Spain and Portugal, with Spanish authorities warning of waves as high as nine metres along the Atlantic coast.

In France's northern Pas-de-Calais, authorities opened gymnasiums and shelters for migrants who converge on the region hoping to make it to Britain by boat.

But despite some damaged buildings and cars, there was some relief in France.

"We were expecting worse. There was obviously a big blast of wind, but no major damage," said one local mayor, Olivier Lepick.

There was disappointment, however, for the hardy athletes of the annual Dutch "headwind cycle championships" race.

They only hold their race along the Oosterscheldekering storm surge barrier in the western Netherlands if the wind is above a gale seven on the Beaufort Scale (up to 61 kilometres per hour), but they finally met their match with Storm Ciaran and had to cancel.

There were "many disappointed faces," organiser Robrecht Stoekenbroek told local agency ANP, vowing to go ahead when the storm passed.

© 2024 Latin Times. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.