Storms batter Europe, cause floods

at least 2 die

January 04, 2003|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

VIENNA, Austria - Fierce winds and rain cut a destructive path across Europe on Thursday and yesterday, killing at least two people, flooding parts of Germany and Belgium, and halting traffic on the swollen Rhine River.

Winds, sometimes reaching hurricane force as they howled from Britain to Austria, knocked down hundreds of trees, causing widespread power outages and chaos on roads and rail lines.

In Germany, a 13-year-old boy was killed and his father seriously injured when a tree fell on their car near Stuttgart. An 18-year-old was killed when his car flipped over on a treacherous road near Hamburg.

Germany, still recovering from calamitous floods in August, has been inundated by rain for several days, swelling the Rhine to dangerous levels and causing its tributaries to flood their banks.

The Rhine was more than 15 feet higher than its normal level, and German police closed a 90-mile stretch south of Cologne to barge traffic. The Mosel and Main rivers, which flow into the Rhine, were flooded in several places, the police said, also halting traffic.

In Belgium, serious flooding led the government to put the army on alert. Two weeks of torrential rain have left much of the southern and western parts of the country under nearly 3 feet of water.

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