Deadly storm Friederike hits Western Europe
***This article is about the storm as it happened on Thursday. For more information about cleanup efforts, please read: Germany begins cleanup following deadly storm Friederike***
A powerful storm packing hurricane-force winds has left at least nine people dead across Europe and shut down transportation systems in parts of Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium.
In Germany, five people were killed, including two firefighters working in emergency operations.
Winds reached up to 203 kilometers an hour (126 mph) as the storm, named Friederike, caused disruption for millions of people.
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All long-distance trains and some regional trains were halted due to the storm raging across the country, according to Germany's railway operator Deutsche Bahn. Full train service is not expected to resume until Friday.
Authorities shut down some airports, while in North Rhine-Westphalia, some motorways and bridges had to be closed, with water levels rising along the Rhine River — just over a week after it had burst its banks.
Various domestic flights between Munich and Berlin, Dusseldorf, Hamburg and Cologne were canceled, and Dutch authorities temporarily canceled all flights in and out of Amsterdam as wind gust reached up to 140 kmh.
Meanwhile, power outages left 100,000 people without electricity in Germany.
In some areas, schools were closed.
From Belgian forest to Rhine River
Across the border in the Netherlands, a man was killed by a falling tree branch in the eastern Dutch town of Olst, while another was killed when a falling tree hit the car he was driving near the German border, police said.
The Netherlands was ensnarled in traffic chaos, with the Dutch traffic service reporting that more than 66 trucks had been blown over by wind. Rail service was largely ground to a halt.
In Belgium, a woman was killed when a tree fell on her car as she drove through a forest south of Brussels, the Belga news agency reported.
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A wolf escaped from West Berkshire, some 73 kilometers (45 miles) west of London, after strong winds knocked down a fence at an animal sanctuary. The animal was recaptured unharmed several hours later.
The German weather service said Friederike was the worst storm to hit the country since 2007.
It was expected to move from west to east and by evening had entered into Poland at reduced strength.
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cw, ls, ng, rs/msh (dpa, AFP, AP)