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Ten dead as storm lashes northern Europe
by Staff Writers
London (AFP) Oct 28, 2013

Treat yourself to a storm? It's all in the name
Berlin (AFP) Oct 28, 2013 - Anyone can get a European storm named after themselves -- if they are ready to pay for the honour.

Under a unique sponsorship scheme by the Institute of Meteorology at Berlin's Free University, people can pay 199 euros ($275) to choose the name of a storm.

Thus the powerful storm lashing Britain and France on Monday has been dubbed "Christian" in France after Christian Widera.

For another 100 euros, people can name periods of fine weather, or anticylones, Thomas Duemmel, a meteorologist at the university's institute, told AFP.

While such sponsors are listed on the university's website, Widera has asked that no further personal details be revealed.

The university has offered the deal since 2002, although it has not stopped the British media christening the latest violent storm St Jude after the patron saint of lost causes, whose feast day is Monday.

Storms' names are cheaper because they occur more frequently, at between 150 and 160 a year compared with around 50 anticyclones, or high pressure systems that mean fine weather, Duemmel said.

The Institute of Meteorology earns between 25,000 and 30,000 euros a year from the service.

This year low-pressure systems are taking male names, and anticyclones female names, but next year they will swap.

"We've put into practice a rule to alternate annually following numerous complaints by feminist organisations," Duemmel said. Previously storms were always feminine while anticyclones were masculine.

The Free University was the first to baptise atmospheric phenomena on the west Atlantic in 1954 to help track them on a meteorological map, gaining accreditation by the World Meteorological Organisation.

According to Duemmel, 80 percent of sponsors are German, followed by Swiss and Austrians, but the scheme has caught the imagination of people far beyond Germany's borders, with some Japanese even having named European storms.

One sponsor lived to regret his action, however.

Wolfgang Schuette, a 58-year-old German pensioner, who proposed the name Xynthia for a deadly Atlantic storm in 2010 as part of a competition, admitted to AFP he was sorry the name would always be linked to death and destruction.

"I wanted the name to be used maybe once on the weather forecast and then to fall into oblivion," he said at the time.

At least 10 people were killed on Monday as a fierce storm tore across northern Europe, causing mass disruption to transport.

Four people were killed in Britain and three in Germany as heavy rain and high winds battered the region. Another three died in Denmark, France and The Netherlands.

Rough conditions at sea forced rescuers to abandon the search for a 14-year-old boy who disappeared while playing in the surf on a southern English beach on Sunday.

British Prime Minister David Cameron described the loss of life as "hugely regrettable".

Winds reached 99 miles (159 kilometres) per hour on the Isle of Wight off the southern English coast, according to Britain's Met Office national weather centre, while more than 500,000 homes in Britain and France were left without power.

Heavy rain and winds of 80 mph elsewhere brought down thousands of trees and left hundreds of passengers trapped in planes at Copenhagen airport.

In Britain, a 17-year-old girl died after a tree fell on the parked caravan where she was sleeping, while a 51-year-old father of three died when a tree hit his car, police said.

The bodies of a man and a woman were later found in the rubble of three houses in London that collapsed in an explosion thought to have been caused after a gas pipe was ruptured in the storm.

A woman in Amsterdam was killed by a falling tree as she walked along a canal, while in Germany three people were killed when trees fell on their cars.

In France, a 47-year-old woman was swept away by waves on the island of Belle-Ile in Brittany and her body was found on a beach several hours later.

The storm claimed a ninth victim in Denmark when a man was hit by a flying brick as a wall collapsed in the port town of Gilleleje.

Some 460,000 homes lost power across Britain, with a further 75,000 homes affected in northern France, according to industry organisations. Thousands were later re-connected.

The electricity also went down at a nuclear power station in southeast England. Dungeness B station automatically closed down both its reactors, leaving its diesel generators to provide power for essential safety systems.

Transport chaos

The storm sparked mass cancellations of train services across southern England, Denmark, The Netherlands and parts of Germany, while a spokeswoman for Copenhagen's main airport said some 500 people were trapped in their planes when strong winds made it impossible to connect stairways to the exits.

London's Heathrow airport cancelled 130 flights, about 10 percent, while delays were reported on the Eurostar cross-Channel train service due to speed restrictions.

More than 450 people were stranded on two ferries outside the English port of Dover after it closed for more than two hours, finally docking shortly after 9:00 am (0900 GMT).

Even Buckingham Palace in London was affected, although Queen Elizabeth II was not staying there at the time.

A spokeswoman said several slates fell off the roof and two of the windows were cracked.

And Britain's Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg had to cancel his monthly press conference because the government building where he works was closed after a crane fell on the roof.

The Met Office said 50 millimetres (almost two inches) of rain fell in some areas of Britain overnight, while the Environment Agency issued around 130 flood alerts.

The storm was named Christian in France and dubbed St Jude by the British media, after the patron saint of lost causes whose feast day is on Monday.

It had been predicted to be the worst for a decade but the devastation was not as bad as many feared, and fell far short of that caused by the "Great Storm" of October 1987.

During that storm, 22 people died in Britain and France and the damage was estimated at 1 billion pounds ($1.6 billion or 1.2 billion euros at current exchange rates).


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