In a joint French-British operation, rescue helicopters saved 26 crew members of a container ship that started to sink in the English Channel amid nine-metre high waves.

 

The German Insurance Association (GDV) estimated insured losses at EUR 1 billion ($1.3 billion) in Germany alone.


Child casualties

 

Fourteen people were killed in storm related incidents in Britain, at least 12 in Germany, six in the Netherlands, another six in Poland, four in the Czech Republic, three in France and two in Belgium.

 

Children were among those killed by falling debris or in traffic accidents.

British meteorologists said the "severe gale force" was the strongest recorded since another major storm in January 1990.

Falling trees and pylons claimed the lives of six motorists in Britain, including the managing director of central England's Birmingham airport, killed when a branch fell on his car as he was driving to work.

Winds eased on Friday but there was still disruption at London Heathrow and other British airports. British Airways cancelled more than 130 domestic flights the day before.

In Germany, an 18-month-old baby died after being crushed by a door which was ripped off its hinges by high winds in Munich.

 

Power cuts

 

A 73-year-old man was killed in Augsburg after a barn door fell on him.

German train services were suspended
for the first time ever [GALLO/GETTY]

For the first time in its history, the Deutsche Bahn railway company suspended  all services across Germany Thursday as a precautionary measure after high winds blew trees on to the tracks.

In Berlin, a two-tonne steel girder fell more than 40m at the city's main rail station.

In the southern Dutch town of Riel an 11-year-old boy died after he was hit  by a car, whose driver said the child was blown into it by a sudden gust.

The Red Cross set up temporary shelters for some 5,000 commuters who are stranded after the Netherlands shut down all rail traffic.

Power companies reported widespread chaos.


Some 100,000 homes in northern France, 20,000 households in Austria and more than 30,000 households across northeast England lost electricity. Cuts were also reported in the Netherlands and Germany.

Experts cautioned against making an automatic link between the storm and concerns over global warming.

 

David Salas Y Melia, a researcher at French weather forecaster Meteo France, said: "Not everything that is a little bit out of the ordinary on the surface of the planet can be systematically linked to climatic change."