The mild winter weather that much of Europe has been enjoying for the last month came to a sudden halt earlier this week when the most violent storm to hit the continent since 1999 swept in from the Atlantic. So far 28 people have died from storm related incidents.
The UK reported 10 deaths, mainly from falling trees and auto accidents, caused by winds up to 100 mph (160 kph). The storm disrupted road and rail transport and closed cross channel ferry services. Schools were also shut down in many areas as a precautionary measure.
The storm increased in violence as it moved into Northern France, Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany. Two people died in France when a tree fell on their car, while 4 deaths were reported in Holland and 7 in Germany. The Deutsche Bundesbahn (DB) the national rail service was completely shut down on Thursday night as hurricane force winds up to 120 kph (72 mph) roared across the country. Authorities closed the Berlin railroad station after a steel beam, supporting the roof, fell during the storm.
Power outages and road closures affected a broad swath of Northern Europe, as the storm moved eastward into Poland, the Czech Republic, Russia and the Ukraine.
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) issued a warning that the “high winds and heavy rain currently hitting much of the UK looks set to occur more frequently and cause more expensive damage in the future unless action is taken now.”
The ABI said that, “while claims for damage following bad weather this winter have so far been what insurers expect, climate change looks set to increase the risk. Over half a million homes are now at high flood risk – up over 100 percent in the last five years. And rising sea levels could lead to many more properties being hit by coastal flooding.”
Jane Milne, the ABI’s Head of Property Insurance, added: “Insurers are geared up to dealing with storm damage claims as quickly and efficiently as possible. Over the last three years they have paid out on average £600 million [$1.185 billion] a year to policyholders hit by storms. But action is needed now to protect customers from our increasingly erratic weather. Today’s storms back up our call for more investment in our flood defenses. We need to look at more innovative building design, so that homes and businesses are more resistant to floods and high winds. Action taken now will help to keep property insurance widely available and affordable.”
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