Icy storm lashes France, Germany

LONDON - An icy storm has been lashing parts of western Europe, causing power cuts in many homes, felling trees and disrupting some rail services.

In France power cuts affected more than 237,000 homes as the storm swept across Normandy and regions north of Paris.

In Dieppe, on the coast, winds reached 146km/h (90.5mph).

The storm, nicknamed "Egon", later hit southern Germany - mainly Rhineland-Palatinate and northern Bavaria. Power cuts and traffic jams were widespread.

Emergency teams were out in force during the night in France and Germany.

A woman died in Saint-Jeannet, in south-eastern France, when a tree toppled over and crushed her. She had been getting her children ready for school, Le Parisien website reported (in French).

In some parts of France schools and colleges have cancelled classes. In Soissons, north of Paris, the storm smashed a rose window in the historic cathedral and damaged the organ.

Drivers have been warned of treacherous conditions on some German roads, because of snow and black ice. Three motorists died in crashes in Bavaria.

Meanwhile, flood defences have been reinforced on Belgium's coast.

The cold snap across Europe has claimed more than 65 lives. Poland and much of south-eastern Europe, including Romania, Bulgaria, Greece and western Turkey, are in the grip of heavy snow and freezing cold.

Thousands of migrants in the Balkans are poorly protected against the icy conditions, as many are still in tents and have little heating.

The UN refugee agency UNHCR said several migrants had died from cold and exhaustion in Bulgaria.

It urged Greece to move more quickly to transfer migrants to better facilities on the mainland, following a report that on the island of Samos at least 1,000 people were sheltering in unheated buildings.

The wind and snow in Germany forced Lufthansa to cancel 125 flights at Frankfurt/Main airport.

German rail operator Deutsche Bahn also set a 200km/h speed limit on high-speed ICE trains, which caused some travel delays. – BBC

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