A fierce storm battered northern Europe with hurricane force winds Thursday, leaving nine people dead or missing, disrupting travel and forcing thousands to flee their homes over fears of the worst tidal surge in decades.
British authorities evacuated 15,000 homes as flooding started on the North Sea coast while Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark and Sweden all boosted their flood defenses.
Winds of up to 142 miles per hour (228 kilometres per hour) were recorded in Scotland and Britain's environment agency said the "surge along the east coast of England is expected to be the worst for more than 60 years."
John Curtin, the Environment Agency's head of incident management, said: "Flooding of coastal communities along the eastern and north west coasts is expected into Friday. Some defences could be overtopped by the combined effect of high tides, high winds and a large tidal surge."
The Met Office said late Thursday that winds were easing but the dangers of a storm surge would remain with high tides expected at around 0900GMT Friday.
Hundreds of flights were cancelled across northern Europe while rail and ferry services were shut down and one of Europe's longest bridges -- connecting Sweden to Denmark -- was closed.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said he had convened the government's emergency committee to ensure necessary measures were being taken, amid fears of a repeat of a 1953 storm surge which killed more than 2,000 people in northern Europe.
In Britain, a lorry driver died when his vehicle toppled onto a number of cars in Scotland, while a man riding a mobility scooter was struck by a falling tree in Nottinghamshire, central England.
Two sailors were reportedly swept overboard from a ship off the southern Swedish coast on Thursday. Air-sea rescue services failed to find them.
In western Denmark, a 72-year-old woman died after strong winds tipped over the van she was driving.
The biggest fear across Europe was from a potentially devastating storm surge which will coincide with high tides.