Eurostar services between London and Paris were canceled due to flooding in a tunnel across the English Channel
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Heavy rainfall across Europe has disrupted the post-Christmas travel rush with flood warnings in effect across the continent
Eurostar trains were shut down between London and Paris on Saturday after a tunnel beneath the River Thames flooded due to days of heavy rain and wind from Storm Gerrit, stranding hundreds of travelers on either side of the English Channel.
The cross-channel train operator announced the cancellation on Saturday morning of all 41 trains scheduled for the day, with engineers reporting the volume of water in the tunnel to be “unprecedented,” according to the Associated Press.
UK train operator LNER had previously advised customers to avoid traveling, warning “significant delays” and “short notice alterations or cancellations” were likely due to severe weather. The carrier’s X (formerly Twitter) feed listed a slew of canceled trains, though nearly all were attributed to a “shortage of train crew” rather than flooding. However, the carrier volunteered to honor tickets held by those affected by Saturday’s Eurostar cancellation on Sunday.
Storm Gerrit has caused major transit disruptions across the UK and Europe this week, with more high winds and heavy rain expected throughout Saturday, according to UK forecaster the Met Office. Gusts of up to 80kph have been predicted, with coastal areas set to receive the worst.
Footage of airplanes struggling to land at London’s Heathrow Airport has gone viral, and British Airways had already canceled over a dozen flights by Wednesday as restrictions were put in place due to the storm.
In Scotland, 137kph winds shredded a wind turbine in Ayrshire on Wednesday. Rail operators ScotRail, LNER and Avanti West Coast suspended parts of their routes due to the powerful winds which local media described as a “mini tornado” and a heavy downpour that brought as much as half the usual monthly rain for December.
Severe weather warnings are in effect across the Netherlands, Germany, Lithuania, and Hungary, where the Danube hit its highest levels in a decade, flooding parts of Budapest. Some German residents of Thuringia and Lower Saxony evacuated due to flooding have still not been allowed home.
Regarding the decision to name Storm Gerrit – a practice the UK began less than a decade ago – Met Office meteorologist Simon Partridge told Sky News, “It was deemed that a named storm would be a good idea because it will highlight to the public the risk associated, particularly as today is likely to be quite a busy day on the roads with people traveling back home from Christmas and things like that.”
Eurostar also saw its UK-to-EU services disrupted earlier this month by a wildcat strike by Eurotunnel staffers. While the unannounced strike lasted just six hours, it forced the cancellation of 30 trains just four days before Christmas, as French union representatives demanded the tripling of their end-of-year bonuses.