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Berlin fire services call state of emergency, as hurricane-force winds hit capital

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Berlin fire services call state of emergency, as hurricane-force winds hit capital
A toppled tree in Berlin on Thursday. Photo: DPA
15:53 CEST+02:00
Volunteer fire crews in the German capital were called into action on Thursday to help deal with the damage left by a powerful storm blasting across northern Germany. Two people have so far died as a result of the strong winds.

Berlin’s professional fire service has called on six volunteer fire crews to try and help it clear through the chaos caused by storm Xavier.

The German Weather Service issued a weather warning early on Thursday for the north of the country, cautioning that winds could reach hurricane force.

The weather warning is in place for Berlin until 8pm, with wind speeds of up to 120 km/h possible, making Xavier the first hurricane-force storm to hit the capital in several years.

By Thursday afternoon the storm had swept across northern Germany and reached the gates of the capital.

Soon after, S-Bahn services had been brought to a complete stop, with no replacement bus service being offered by Deutsche Bahn.

Within hours the city's public transport system had been crippled, as dozens of trees had fallen across train and tram lines, while all bus services were stopped for precautionary reasons.

Berliners packed into trams and underground services to escape the powerful gusts of wind flinging traffic signs and advertising billboards to the ground.

The Berlin Transport Company (BVG) announced on Twitter shortly after 5pm that all buses had stopped running. Tram lines have also been partially affected, with the M13 and M50 no longer running after a tree fell onto the line.

Underground services in Berlin have also been badly affected. The BVG announced that services on sections of the U5 and U2 have been halted. Taggespiegel reports that U-Bahn trains have stopped running on all overground sections. 

According to Tagesspiegel, crowds were building up in Friedrichstraße train station shortly before 5pm, as regional trains which would normally take commuters out of the city were also no longer running.

Meanwhile a section of the A115 Autobahn leading out of the west of the city was closed down after a tree fell across two lanes.

At both Berlin airports passengers were not allowed to leave their planes as a security precaution. Passengers were also not being permitted to board planes.

At least one death in Hamburg

A woman in Hamburg was killed on Thursday when a tree blown over by hurricane-force winds fell on top of her car. In Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania a truck driver was killed when a tree hit his vehicle as he drove down a state road.

Fire crews in Hamburg were called out over 600 times in a two hour period, as storm Xavier blasted across the harbour city. In Hanover and other northern cities rescue teams were also called to places where falling tress had crashed onto cars.

All train services between Berlin and Hanover and between Berlin and Hamburg were also cancelled on Thursday, Deutsche Bahn announced. The train company said that it wanted to avoid trains standing for hours on the track between stations.

Rail services in the whole of the states of Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony had been cancelled until further notice on Thursday afternoon, as had inner city trains in the cities of Bremen and Hamburg. Strong winds had blown multiple trees across train lines or onto overhead power cables, crippling the rail infrastructure.

U-Bahn services in Hamburg were also affected, with the U1 and U2 lines being run on buses in certain areas. 

Residents of Hamburg have been told by the fire services to stay indoors.

“Warning for Hamburg. Don’t stay outside. Stay in a protected area,” the fire service tweeted.

On social media, residents of northern Germany posted videos of the wind blasting through parks, or pictures of trees that had been blown across roads.

With AFP

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