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Saturday 2 December 2023 Dublin: 2°C
Alamy Stock Photo Firefighters rescue a resident in Campi di Bisenzio, in the central Italian Tuscany region yesterday.
Climate Change

ESB crews travel to France amid power outages as Storm Ciarán leaves 16 people dead across Europe

Air, rail and ferry services saw cancellations and long delays across several countries.

LAST UPDATE | Nov 4th 2023, 4:40 PM

THE DEATH TOLL from Storm Ciarán rose to at least 16 across Western Europe yesterday, as heavy downpours and record winds brought travel chaos. 

In response, crews from ESB Networks are setting sail for France this evening to assist their counterparts in getting power back online for the hundreds of thousands of households still without electricity. 

By yesterday evening, 325,000 French households were still without power, mainly in Brittany and Normandy, according to Enedis power networks.

The wind gusts in Brittany were “exceptional” and “many absolute records have been broken”, national weather service Meteo-France said on X.

On the French Mediterranean island of Corsica, shipowner Francois-Xavier Bacchidu said the damage was “totally unheard of” as he surveyed the scene of overturned boats and damaged buildings.

“The boats here have always been safe. At least, we thought so, but we’re going to have to rethink things in the future,” he told AFP.

daoulas-france-03rd-nov-2023-french-president-emmanuel-macron-c-flanked-by-alain-espinasse-prefect-of-finistere-and-french-interior-minister-gerald-darmanin-visits-a-farm-during-a-visit-after-s Alamy Stock Photo French President Emmanuel Macron visits a farm during a visit after Storm Ciaran in Daoulas, France yesterday. Alamy Stock Photo

There is longstanding cooperation in place with electricity network operators in Ireland, the UK and France in providing support to each other, the ESB said in a statement. 

“This evening, an ESB Networks team comprising 48 skilled network technicians and support staff are sailing to Cherbourg to assist our French counterparts in their efforts to restore electricity to customers in Brittany and Normandy following Storm Ciarán,” said Nicholas Tarrant, Managing Director of ESB Networks.

“French crews provided considerable support to ESB Networks in electricity restoration efforts post-Storm Ophelia in 2017, predominantly in West and North Cork where some of the worst damage was experienced.

“Our crews are proudly reciprocating by sharing their expertise to help speedily restore electricity to customers in Northern France in the coming days.”  

AlanKellyESBNetworks1 Fennell Photography 2023 Alan Kelly, Senior Manager at ESB Networks. ahead of the crews' departure. Fennell Photography 2023

State of emergency 

At least six people died in the central Tuscany region, Italian authorities announced yesterday, declaring a state of emergency as weather specialists reported record rainfall.

Another four people were killed off the coast of Portugal when a yacht ran aground north of Lisbon in strong swells.

In Italy, the rescue services were called out to dozens of incidents across Tuscany to help motorists stranded in flooded tunnels or hemmed in by trees brought down by the winds.

Tuscany governor Eugenio Giani said the dead in the Italy storms included an 85-year-old man found drowned on the ground floor of his house in Montemurlo, northwest of Florence.

“What happened tonight in Tuscany has a name: climate change,” Giani wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Residents were busy mucking out homes, garages and cellars swamped by the floodwaters, throwing damaged furniture and appliances onto the street, said an AFP photographer on the scene.

Florence mayor Dario Nardella described the situation as “critical” in the city, as the level of the Arno River continued to rise.

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni announced an initial state aid package of €5 million for the region as she confirmed a state of emergency to fast-track funding and resources.

Three people aboard the Danish-flagged sailboat that capsized off a beach at Santa Cruz north of Lisbon were found dead on the shore near the boat’s wreckage yesterday, a navy spokesman told AFP.

Trees felled by gale-force winds caused several of the other deaths in Europe. In the Belgian city of Ghent, falling branches killed a five-year-old Ukrainian boy and a 64-year-old woman on Thursday.

Falling trees had earlier killed a lorry driver in his vehicle in northern France’s Aisne region.

French officials also reported the death of a man who fell from his balcony in the port city of Le Havre.

A man in the Dutch town of Venray, a woman in Madrid and a person in Germany were also killed.

Travel disruption 

In southern England, hundreds of schools were closed yesterday as large waves powered by winds of 135 km/h crashed along the coastline.

On the Channel Island of Jersey, residents had to be evacuated to hotels overnight as gusts of up to 164 km/h damaged homes, according to local media.

Air, rail and ferry services saw cancellations and long delays across several countries.

More than 200 flights were cancelled at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, a major European hub.

In Spain, more than 80 flights were cancelled at 11 airports and rail services were suspended in the northwest yesterday.

Belgium’s port of Antwerp was closed and flights from Brussels were disrupted.

Scientists have warned the world will experience more extreme weather events because of the global warming caused by greenhouse gases.

“The links between climate change and winter storms in Europe are complex,” said Hannah Cloke, professor of hydrology at England’s Reading University.

“But as seas and air temperatures get warmer, we expect some winter storms to bring more rain, and potentially cause more flooding.”

- © AFP 2023 with reporting from David Mac Redmond

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