Storm Ciaran kills 2, lashes Europe with strong winds and rain

LONDON/PARIS (Reuters) -Storm Ciaran smashed into northwestern Europe on Thursday with strong winds and driving rain, killing one person in France and one in Spain as schools, airports and trains halted service.

A truck driver was killed by a falling tree northeast of Paris and 1.2 million French households were left without electricity. Authorities in Finistere, Brittany, urged people to stay at home and avoid winds which were hitting 207 kph (129 mph), leading to reports of 20-metre (66-foot) waves off the coast.

A woman was killed when a tree fell on her in central Madrid, emergency services said. Three people were injured.

Storm Ciaran, which follows on the heels of Storm Babet two weeks ago, was driven by a powerful jet stream that swept in from the Atlantic, unleashing heavy rain and furious winds that have already caused heavy flooding in Northern Ireland and parts of Britain.

France’s Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin told reporters that in addition to the death of the truck driver, 15 people, including seven firefighters, had been injured. One person was seriously injured in the northern French town of Roubaix, he said.

About 1,300 people had to be relocated to camp sites or shelters, and several houses were evacuated in the Finistere city of Brest after a crane fell, Darmanin said on social media.

“I repeat: stay at home,” local prefect Alain Espinasse told RTL radio.

Still, the storm in France showed some signs of abating with the Meteo France weather service reducing its alert for strong winds in Mache, Finistere and Cotes d’Armor from red to orange.

In Britain, the Channel Islands were among the worst hit areas, with the BBC reporting that windows had been blown in and one roof ripped off a house on Jersey, forcing families to move into nearby hotels.

Dutch Airline KLM scrapped hundreds of flights to and from Amsterdam, while international trains from the Dutch capital to Paris were also cancelled, and shipping lanes in the southwest of the country were closed. Airport operator AENA said 42 flights in Spain were cancelled following the cancellation of 21 flights on Wednesday.

Spain’s state-run weather agency AEMET also issued red warnings on Thursday for the northern regions of Galicia and Cantabria, where waves of as high as 9 metres were expected.

La Pinilla, a ski resort north of Madrid, and Estaca de Bares in Galicia registered wind velocities of more than 150 kph, AEMET said.

(Reporting by Kate Holton in London and Dominque Vidalon in Paris; additional reporting by Farouq Suleiman in London, Bart Meijer in Amsterdam and Emma Pinedo and Inti Landauro in Madrid; Writing by Charlie Devereux; Editing by Angus MacSwan, Gareth Jones and Lisa Shumaker)