The United Kingdom has been smashed by its fastest winds on record as storm Eunice brought waves as high as houses and tore off roofs while millions of people were told to stay indoors.
The UK’s weather service issued a rare ‘danger-to-life’ warning as wind gusts of 196km/hr battered Britain and Ireland, killing at least one person and knocking out power to some 200,000 homes.
High winds in London shredded the white domed roof of the O2 arena which has hosted stars from The Rolling Stones to Beyonce and Rihanna.
The weather system, known as Storm Zeynep in Germany, has claimed six lives and is now pushing into the European mainland, prompting high wind warnings in Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany.
It hit western England, making landfall in Cornwall, where waves lashed the coast, sending plumes of spray over the roofs of cottages.
In Wales, waves crashed over Aberystwyth promenade, some as high as houses. More than 100,000 people were hit by power cuts as lines were torn down and ancient trees keeled over.
Tall buildings in London trembled as wind whistled through Canary Wharf.
“Storm Eunice is really packing a punch,” Met Office Chief Meteorologist Frank Saunders said.
“We only issue red weather warnings when we think there is a threat to life from the weather.”
The Met Office said a gust of 196 kph was recorded at The Needles on the Isle of Wight, provisionally a record for the most powerful gust ever recorded in England.
A man died in Ireland after being struck by a falling tree while clearing storm debris, RTE reported. Another person was injured by falling debris in Henley-on-Thames, west of London.
Planes were buffeted so strongly by gusts at some airports that pilots were forced to abandon landings. A live stream of Heathrow Airport’s runway was being watched by more than 200,000 people online.
A total of 436 flights were cancelled across the United Kingdom plus ferries and trains.
Britain’s security minister, Damian Hinds, said troops were on standby to deal with the consequences of the weather.
“We should all follow the advice and take precautions to keep safe,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said. “I thank responders for all their efforts.”
Storm Eunice hits Holland
Meanwhile the storm has pummelled the Netherlands, killing two people, damaging buildings and blowing off parts of the roof at the stadium of soccer club ADO Den Haag, authorities said.
The government sent out text alerts telling people to stay indoors and said they should only call emergency services in life-threatening situations. “The emergency number is overloaded,” read the message.
One person was killed by a falling tree in Amsterdam, and a second in the nearby Diemen area, the city’s fire department said.
“Do not go out on the street anymore. It is truly dangerous,” the city’s police force said on Twitter.
Schools sent children home early and trains were cancelled nationwide.
Images of a strip of roof hanging off The Hague soccer club’s stadium circulated on social media.
The Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) issued a “code red” warning saying gusts could reach up to 130 kilometres per hour in coastal areas as the storm reaches continental Europe.