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Hurricane kills seven in southern Sweden

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20:28 CET+01:00
Hurricane kills sevenThe most violent storm to strike Sweden since 1969 swept across the southern half of the country on Saturday evening, killing seven people and leaving 359,000 households without electricity.

With gusts of over 150km/h, the hurricane, which Norwegian meteorologists named "Gudrun", caused chaos as railways and bridges were closed, planes were grounded and ferries were kept in ports.

Even Barsebäck, a nuclear power station, was forced to shut down its remaining reactor since there were not enough functioning power lines to transmit the electricity it was generating.

But it was on the roads that there was the greatest loss of life. At least three people died when their cars were crushed by falling trees.

"It's just raining trees," Mats Antonsson, a Jönköping police officer, told Aftonbladet. "They're lying like skittles in the roads."

A 55 year old man died near Höör in Skåne when a tree landed on his car, while a 30 year old man was killed in the same way outside Svedala. According to Expressen, a 57 year old man died in front of his wife and daughter when he got out of their car to investigate a tree blocking the road and was hit by another.

"It took time for the ambulance to get to the scene," said Birgitta Fast of Växjö police to Expressen. "They were forced to saw their way through."

Another man in his fifties was killed when bales of hay were blown on top of him.

All across southern Sweden motorists were forced to sit in their stationary cars while fallen trees blocked the road ahead and behind them.

The Öresund bridge to Denmark was closed to road traffic at around 3pm. An hour later, reported Aftonbladet, all ferries to Bornholm, Germany, Ven, mid-Sweden and Denmark were stopped.

At about the same time all train traffic in southern and south-western Sweden was halted, including trains across the Öresund bridge. Most trains simply didn't leave stations but around thirty trains were stuck en route. It wasn't until midnight that many of these passengers were evacuated and taken to nearby hotels.

"People have been accommodated at hotels here and there or continued their journeys by bus," said the Rail Agency's information officer, Tomas Boström.

"Now we have solved the problem for the evening, but there are going to be big problems on Sunday since there are long stretches of track which need to be cleared and you can't do that in this kind of weather," he told Dagens Nyhter.

"Not since the snowstorms in November 1995 have we had such a serious situation," he added.

Stockholm's Arlanda airport was unaffected but Copenhagen's main airport, Kastrup, was forced to close between 5pm and 9pm. Malmö's Sturup was closed throughout the evening and planes destined for Gothenburg's Landvetter airport were diverted.

Throughout Saturday evening Sweden's main TV channels carried warnings about the weather, urging people to stay inside. But these were useless to the 359,000 households who were without electricity from Saturday evening and throughout the night.

"Hurricane Gudrun caused one of the biggest power cuts in modern times," wrote Expressen, which explained that in the face of such strong winds, there was nothing the electricity companies could do about it other than make "minor reconnections".

"It's probably going to take several days before everyone has electricity again," said Anders Strandberg at the power company Sydkraft, whose customers were most affected. "The power cuts are mostly due to fallen trees but pylons and cables have also blown down."

Småland was the worst hit by the power failures but they extended from Östergötland down to Skåne. Even Stockholm did not escape unscathed: 1,300 households in Täby also lost power.

Across the southern part of Sweden mobile networks were unavailable for much of the night and over 40,000 people lost their landline telephone service. In Jönköping the emergency number 112 stopped working.

Sources: Dagens Nyheter, Expressen, Aftonbladet

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