Britain, Ireland brace for storm disruptions, damage

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Paris, Feb 9 (AFP/APP): Britain and Ireland hunkered down Sunday for a powerful storm expected to disrupt air, rail and sea links, cancel sports events, cut electrical power and damage property.

With howling winds and driving rain, forecasters said Ciara would also hit France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany.

“Storm Ciara is expected to bring delays and cancellations to air, ferry and train services; damage to buildings and a good chance of power cuts,” Britain’s Met Office said.

Britain’s Network Rail advised travellers to avoid taking the train on Sunday unless “absolutely necessary,” warning that transport could be disrupted into Monday morning.

Several rail firms also decided to reduce the frequency and speed of trains.

In London, organisers cancelled a 10 kilometre race in which 25,000 runners were due to take part, while major parks were set to close.

Ireland’s Met Eireann meteorological service warned Storm Ciara will produce very strong southwest winds with mean speeds of 65 to 80 kilometres per hour and gusts up to 130km/h.

It warned of “a significant risk of coastal flooding especially along western and northwestern coasts”.

In the western Irish city of Galway, the finale for launching the European capital of culture 2020 was cancelled on Saturday evening.

“In the interests of the safety of the public the weather warnings currently in place mean that it has been deemed unsafe to go ahead,” Galway 2020 said in a statement.

– Cancellations –

The national airline Aer Lingus warned of possible delays and cancellations.

The north and northwest of France will be hit by winds of up to 80 kilometres per hour (50 miles/h) were from Sunday morning, forecaster Marion Pirat told AFP.

Winds will strengthen to 120 kilometers per hour overnight Sunday, Pirat added.

Affected regions will include Normandy, the Ardennes and Lorraine. In the Vosges, winds could hit speeds of 140 km/h.

In the Champagne region and Brittany, gusts could reach 110 km/h, according to forecaster Meteo France.

The storm could make tough going for the rugby match in northern Paris between hosts France and visitors Italy at 1600 GMT at the Stade de France, part of the Six Nations annual tournament.

In Belgium, the Royal Meteorological Institute issued an alert for Sunday of winds reaching 130 km/h, or more, with the risk of property damage nationwide.

Some sixty flights departing or arriving at Brussels Airport have been cancelled as a precaution, according to an airport spokesman, who said further delays were possible.

In Brussels, woods and parks will be closed Sunday and Monday.

The Belgium football league has announced postponements for championship matches that had been scheduled for Sunday.

Dutch Football Association (KNVB) announced that Sunday’s four top-flight matches had been postponed.

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