Death toll expected to rise as powerful storm causes flooding, outages in western Europe

Britain issued severe flood warnings Monday, advising of life-threatening danger after storm Dennis dumped weeks’ worth of rain in some places. One woman swept away by the floodwaters was feared dead.

To the east, Dennis’s gale-force winds also injured nine people in car accidents in Germany as trees crashed down onto roads and train tracks. Flooding and power outages were reported elsewhere in northern Europe.

By late afternoon Monday, Britain issued six severe flood warnings in the central English counties of Herefordshire and Worcestershire. The Environment Agency also said 205 flood warnings were in place, meaning that flooding was expected, and 254 alerts, meaning flooding was possible.

Some 480 flood warnings and alerts were issued across England on Monday, the highest on record, the agency said.

Yet the storm’s death toll of two looked certain to rise as West Mercia Police said the search for the woman, missing near Tenbury in Worcestershire since Sunday, had become a “recovery operation.” A man pulled from the water in the same incident was airlifted to a hospital, where he remains in a stable condition, police said.

145 km/h winds

The weather system brought winds of more than 145 km/h and up to 150 millimetres of rain to Britain over the weekend.

“We expect disruptive weather into the middle of this week bringing a significant flood risk for the West Midlands, and there are flood warnings in place across much of England,” said Toby Willison, executive director of operations at Britain’s Environment Agency.

Forecasters said river levels in parts of northern England had yet to reach their peak. In the northern England city of York, authorities were piling up more than 4,000 sandbags as the River Ouse continued to rise. It’s expected to peak on Tuesday.

Emergency personnel rescue people in Hereford, Britain, on Monday. (Phil Noble/Reuters)

Other residents in Wales and western England were cleaning up Monday after the storm flooded roads, railways, homes and businesses and disrupted travel across Britain. Some told stories of fleeing for their lives.

Jeanette Cox, 68 and her daughter Rachel woke up to the sound of water in their home in the Welsh village of Nantgarw, near Cardiff, at about 4 a.m. local time Sunday. Cox said the only object that survived downstairs was a photograph of her wedding day that she had kept on the windowsill. Her husband Bill died from cancer in 2009.

“It was pitch black,” she said. “All you could hear was the water running. I’ve never seen anything like it. I was very frightened.”

9 injured in Germany

Britain’s environment secretary said climate change was making extreme weather events more common, but denied that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative government was unprepared for such storms.

“We’ll never be able to protect every single household, just because of the nature of climate change and the fact that these weather events are becoming more extreme, but we’ve done everything that we can do with a significant sum of money, and there’s more to come, ” Environment Secretary George Eustice said.

A flooded street is seen in Tenbury Wells, Britain, on Monday. (Phil Noble/Reuters)

In Germany, at least nine people were injured in weather-related car accidents as high winds brought trees down onto roads and train tracks.

In Trippstadt near the French border, the driver of a van and his six passengers were injured, some severely, when their vehicle ran into a fallen tree Monday morning. In Rostock in northeastern Germany, two people were injured when their car crashed Sunday into a fallen tree, the news agency dpa reported.

Train hits fallen tree

A commuter train with 67 passengers also crashed into a fallen tree on the tracks in the western German city of Dortmund, but nobody was injured. And in the German city of Hamburg, the city’s famous fish market was flooded for the second time this month.

Further north, strong winds and heavy rains caused flooding, road closures and electricity outages across the Nordic and Baltic regions and forced the cancellation of several ferry crossings between Denmark and Norway.

In Denmark, the southwestern city of Kolding was flooded as gale force winds and heavy rains battered the area. In nearby Horsens, police protectively evacuated inhabitants near Bygholm Lake out of fear that a levee would collapse. Emergency services had attempted to pump water out of the lake but heavy rains had increased the water level.

In southwestern Norway, more than half a dozen roads and several mountain passes were closed as the storm brought in snow and high winds.

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