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Fierce storm batters England, northern France


The UK faced travel chaos on Monday morning and 65,000 homes in northwestern France were left without electricity as one of the worst storms to strike the UK's southwest coast in years swept in from the Atlantic Ocean.


The strongest storm to hit Britain in a decade battered the south of England on Monday after causing widespread damage in northern France and the Netherlands, forcing airports to cancel flights, cutting power to thousands of homes and disrupting the travel plans of millions of commuters. At least five deaths have been reported.

Three administrative regions in northern France, including the Somme, Pas-de-Calais and Nord were still on “Orange Alert” Monday, while others were taken off the danger list as the storm moved northwards to the North Sea and Great Britain. At 9:00 GMT (+1), 65,000 French homes were still without electricity.

By early afternoon, British energy suppliers said that some 270,000 homes were without power. Flood alerts were issued for many parts of southern England and emergency officials said hundreds of trees were knocked down by gusts.

Winds of up to 160 km per hour were recorded at the southern Isle of Wight early Monday. Rail services across the southern England were shut down, stranding commuters at the start of the working week. Meanwhile, toppled trees crushed cars, damaged properties and flooding made some roads impassable.

A 17-year-old girl has died after a tree fell onto the static home she was sleeping in at Hever, Kent Police said.

Hertfordshire police said a man in his 50s was killed when a tree fell on a car in Watford.

Police also said one London man died in an apparent gas explosion at his home and a teenage boy drowned Sunday after being swept to sea while playing in the surf at Newhaven.

In the Netherlands, Amsterdam police said a woman was killed when a tree fell on her in the city and advised people to stay indoors.

Flights cancelled

London’s Heathrow airport said 130 flights were cancelled, the majority between 06:00 and 11:00 GMT and told passengers to check with their airlines before travelling.

Gatwick airport warned of flight disruption, adding that the train services to the airport would not run until 09:00 GMT.

Strong winds were forecast to continue hitting Britain’s East, East Midlands, West Midlands, South East and South West and there was a risk that motorbikes and high-sided vehicles could be blown over, the agency added.

“The thing that’s unusual about this one is that most of our storms develop out over the Atlantic so that they’ve done all their strengthening and deepening by the time they reach us,” Met Office spokeswoman Helen Chivers said.

“This one is developing as it crosses the UK, which is why it brings the potential for significant disruption ... and that doesn’t happen very often.”

Met Office spokesman Dan Williams said the last such comparable storm -- taking into consideration the time of year and area affected -- was in October 2002.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

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