europe storm
A woman tries to clean the mud in Montemurlo near Prato after heavy rain last night, on November 3, 2023. Image Credit: AFP

Montemurlo: At least 12 people were killed as Storm Ciaran battered Western Europe with record winds of up to 200 kilometres per hour, causing travel mayhem with closed ports and flight and rail disruptions.

At least five people died in Tuscany, Italian authorities announced on Friday, reporting record rainfall and the declaration of a state of emergency.

Tuscany governor Eugenio Giani said the five dead included an 85-year-old man who was found drowned on the ground floor of his house in Montemurlo, northwest of Florence.

“What happened tonight in Tuscany has a name: climate change,” he wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Florence mayor Dario Nardella said the “situation is critical” in the city, as the level of the Arno River continued to rise.

Trees felled by gale-force winds caused most of the deaths in Europe. In the Belgian city of Ghent, a five-year-old Ukrainian boy and a 64-year-old woman were killed by falling branches.

Falling trees had earlier killed a lorry driver in his vehicle in northern France’s Aisne region, and French authorities also reported the death of a man who fell from his balcony in the port city of Le Havre.

A man in the Dutch town of Venray, a woman in central Madrid and a person in Germany also died.

Some 1.2 million French homes lost electricity as the storm lashed the northwest coast. Almost 700,000 remained without power on Thursday evening, according to network manager Enedis.

europe storm
Bulldozers are used to remove debris from the streets in Montemurlo, near Prato, after heavy rain the previous night, on November 3, 2023. Image Credit: AFP

French President Emmanuel Macron was due to visit the storm-battered region of Brittany on Friday, the Elysee presidential palace said.

The storm interrupted rail, air and maritime traffic in Belgium where the port of Antwerp was closed and flights from Brussels were disrupted.

The wind gusts in the western Brittany region were “exceptional” and “many absolute records have been broken”, national weather service Meteo-France said on X.

The prefect for the local department said gusts as high as 207 km/h (129 mph) 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.

Transport disrupted

In southern England, hundreds of schools were closed as large waves powered by winds of 135 km/h 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/h damaged homes, according to local media.

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.

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 (29 feet) along the Atlantic coast.

In Spain, more than 80 flights were cancelled at 11 airports.

‘Many disappointed faces’

There was disappointment 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 km/h).

But they finally met their match with Storm Ciaran and had to postpone it.

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

The French weather service said storms would continue into Friday, notably in the southwest of the country and on the island of Corsica.

Rail services in western parts of the country would remain disrupted on Friday, said Transport Minister Clement Beaune.