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3 dead as monstrous winds lash Europe, creating travel nightmare

A man who escaped unharmed makes a phone call after his scooter was hit by a crashing tree uprooted by heavy winds in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018.
Peter Dejong | AP
A man who escaped unharmed makes a phone call after his scooter was hit by a crashing tree uprooted by heavy winds in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018.

Deadly storms driven by 90-mph wind gusts threw transportation across much of northern Europe into chaos Thursday, canceling hundreds of flights, shutting down rail lines and bringing havoc to roads and highways.

Two deaths in the Netherlands and one in Belgium were blamed on the storm.

Dutch broadcaster NOS posted frightening videos of a massive tree crashing down in the wind, barely missing a woman with a stroller. Other videos showed a construction trailer blowing over after a man stepped into it; a multiple-story sign blowing over, people tumbling in the wind through a town square; and bicycle commuters being blown away while waiting for lights to change at intersections.

More than 300 flights were canceled at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport. All air traffic was suspended during the worst of the storm, and wind damage forced parts of the airport to shut down.

"Due to strong winds, a few roof plates have been detached from the terminal building," the airport said in a statement. "The entrances of Departures 1 and 2 are therefore closed. Passengers can enter Departures 3. Check-in is possible in all departure halls."

The Dutch rail system NS posted on its website that "all trains have been canceled until further notice with the exception of Arriva train services in Limburg and the North of the Netherlands."

Dutch police said a 62-year-old man died after being hit in the face by a falling branch; another died in the eastern city of Enschede when a tree hit his car.

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Snow, sleet and rain driven by the heavy winds lashed parts of Germany. Flight operations also were briefly halted at Germany's Cologne Bonn Airport. Rail operator Deutsche Bahn halted high-speed and intercity trains.

In northern Germany, Lower Saxony police said at one point crashes were taking place "every minute," DPA news service reported.

In Belgium, schoolchildren miraculously escaped serious injury when a tree fell on a bus. A driver was killed when a tree collapsed onto her car south of Brussels, and scattered injuries were reported across the country as the storm picked up in intensity during the day.

In Britain, gale-force winds knocked out power to more than 150,000 homes and businesses. Toppled power lines and trees damaged homes and snarled traffic.

In Romania, snowstorms and high winds forced the closure of dozens of schools, several main roads and ports, and thousands of people were left without electricity. Interior Minister Carmen Dan said Thursday that some 32,000 people had no power. Authorities freed a bus carrying 22 people that was stranded in snowdrifts in Romania's eastern Galati region.

Contributing: The Associated Press