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Millions take shelter in UK as storm Eunice threatens Europe

Millions bowed as Storm Eunice ravaged southern Britain on Friday with terrifying winds and crashing waves, virtually deserting the streets of London and triggering wider warnings across Europe.

The British capital received the first-ever “red” weather warning, meaning there is a “danger to life”, and the same level of alert applied in southern England and southern Wales, where schools were closed and public transport paralyzed.

Eunice cut power to 55,000 homes and businesses in Ireland and hundreds of homes in Cornwall, south-west England, which was hit by gusts of 93mph and waves breaking the seawall along the coast.

It gathered power in a “sting jet”, a rarely seen meteorological phenomenon that wreaked havoc in Britain in the “Great Storm” of 1987, and also set off a red alert in the Netherlands.

Huge waves pounded the Breton coast in northwestern France. In northern Germany, long-distance and regional trains were gradually shut down, while warnings were also issued in Belgium.

Ferries across the Channel, the world’s busiest shipping route, were cancelled, as were flights from Northern Europe’s aviation hubs, including about 300 from Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has put the British military on standby, tweeted: “We all need to follow the advice and take precautions to stay safe.”

The Met Office, the UK’s meteorological service, issued its first red weather warning for London – active until 1500 GMT – since the warning system was introduced in 2011.

“The entire country will be affected by the extremely strong and damaging winds, which will cause significant disruptions,” said Met Office forecaster Annie Shuttleworth.

The agency warned that roofs could be blown away, trees could be uprooted and power lines could be knocked down.

Roads, bridges and railways have already been affected, leading to delays and cancellations of bus, train and ferry services in the south of Britain. Heavy snowfall was also forecast in Scotland and northern England.

Climate impact?

Roy Stokes, the Environment Agency official, warned weather watchers and amateur photographers not to go to Britain’s south coast in search of dramatic images, calling it “probably the dumbest thing you can do”.

The streets of rush hour in London, where activity is slowly returning to pre-pandemic levels, was eerily calm as many followed the advice to stay home as the storm approached.

Trains to the capital were already running with limited services in the morning, with speed limits.

All buses and trains in Wales were canceled while the National Highways agency issued a severe weather warning until 1800 GMT of high winds covering Britain’s entire strategic road network.

Major river crossings, including the Severn Bridge connecting Wales to the South West of England and the QEII Bridge south of London, were also closed.

The oncoming storm forced Prince Charles, the heir apparent, to postpone a trip to South Wales on Friday “in the interests of public safety,” his office said.

Another storm, Dudley, caused transport disruption and power outages when it hit Britain on Wednesday, although damage was not widespread.

Experts said the frequency and intensity of the storms could not necessarily be linked to climate change, but that storms caused more damage as a result.

“There is very little evidence that the winds in these winter storms have become stronger because of climate change,” said Richard Allan, a professor of climate science at the University of Reading.

“But with more intense rainfall and higher sea levels, as human-induced climate change continues to warm the planet, coastal storm surge flooding and prolonged deluges will exacerbate as these rare, explosive storms hit us in a warmer world.”

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