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Business

Insurers Brace For Heavy Storm Damages

German, Dutch and British insurance companies are preparing for hundreds of millions in red ink in the wake of damages caused by this week's gale-force winds.

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High winds ripped scaffolding from construction sites across Germany this week.

The strongest autumn gale force winds in 10 years continued to wreak havoc across Western Europe on Wednesday as insurers predicted they would be facing hundreds of millions in storm-related settlements.

At least 33 were killed by the storms in Western Europe, with 11 victims in Germany alone. In some areas, "Jeanett's" winds reached hurricane-like speeds of 183 kilometers per hour (113 miles).

The storms come as a double blow for German insurer Allianz, which must also pay for considerable damages caused by last summer's floods in eastern Germany. A spokesman for the Munich-based company estimated it would have to pay 80 million euro ($79 million) in damages caused by this week's storms. In Germany alone, more than 80,000 instances of storm damage have already been reported.

Insurers in Holland, hit particularly hard by the storm, are estimating damages in excess of 100 million euro. And Britain has estimated repairs ensuing from the weekend storm could hit 80 million euros.

In Germany, re-insurers are expected to feel the brunt of the blow. "A considerable part of this is covered by re-insurers," a spokesman for Allianz told the business newspaper "Handelsblatt."

"These further storm damages are going to push insurance companies deep into red ink," Arno Junke, the head of German operations for General Cologne Re, told the same paper. General Cologne Re is the world's third-largest re-insurer.

Widespread damage

Meteorologists forecasted the gale force winds last week and issued strong warnings across Europe, which likely prevented more deaths. Emergency services in virtually every effected country warned residents not to leave their homes. But the damage to property was still heavy and widespread.

Unwetter über Deutschland

Fallen trees and debris brought havoc to roads and railways in the region, and winds tore ceilings from homes, destroyed power transformers and caused more damage to the Cologne Cathedral than any other incident since World War II. Numerous flights were also cancelled or delayed at major European airports. Streets and homes flooded in some areas as torrential rains saturated the ground.

More than 3,000 workers from Germany's federal disaster relief agency, the Technischen Hilfswerk, have been working through the night to clean up damaged homes, roads and transportation arteries.

Eurostar service suspended

Damage to overhead lines led to standstilsl or significant delays on many major railway lines in Germany, with Deutsche Bahn estimating damages as high as 10 million euro. A power outage and overhead line damage also brought Eurostar's high-speed rail service between Paris, Brussels and London to a grinding halt on Tuesday, stranding more than 7,000 passengers. The company has not announced when services on the heavily trafficked line will resume.

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