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Travel chaos as UK, Europe, lashed by big storm

A major Atlantic storm packing hurricane-force winds pummeled England, France, Belgium and the Netherlands early Monday, knocking out power to 220,000 homes in England and blocking roads and railways with fallen trees.

Wind gusts as strong as 160km/h battered the south coast of England, and authorities warned of travel disruptions across the region.

At least two storm-releated deaths were confirmed in England, and a third person was reported missing.

Police in Kent said a 17-year-old girl was killed Monday morning when a tree fell on the home where she was sleeping in Hever, south of London.

A man in his 50s was killed when a tree fell on a vehicle Monday in Watford, northwest of London, according to Hertfordshire police.

As the storm approached, rescuers had to suspend their search for a missing teenager believed to have been swept out to sea. The unidentified teenager disappeared from Newhaven, East Sussex, on the southern coast, according to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.

Authorities were checking whether two other deaths were related to the storm. A man and a woman died — and a third person was hospitalized — as a result of a gas explosion at a house in Hounslow in West London, London’s Metropolitan Police said. Investigators were checking whether a tree that had fallen in the area damaged gas pipes and caused the blast.

The storm also affected France, Belgium and the Netherlands. A woman was killed by a falling tree in Amsterdam, local media reported. Officials said 42,000 homes in northern France were without electricity. Overnight, the number of homes in France without power peaked at 75,000.

Fallen trees
The strongest wind gusts in England — 159km/h or 99 mph — were recorded on the Isle of Wight, which is off the south coast, the Met Office said.

The storm cut power to people across the southern part of England.

The Energy Networks Association, which represents British and Irish power operators, said that 220,000 homes were without power in the southeast, southwest and midlands of England.

Energy companies said they were working to restore power as quickly as possible.

Flood warnings
Authorities warned that the heavy rain from the storm could cause flooding in some areas. Eighteen flood warnings were in place in southwest England, the government said.

In the southeast, Sussex Police said they had had reports of more than 125 trees down across the county. They warned drivers to be careful, especially on smaller roads.

Network Rail, which manages Britain’s rail infrastructure, said more than 100 trees were on rails in the network across the southeast.

Heathrow Airport said it was reducing the number of flights Monday because of the severe weather.
Weather forecasters had said before the storm arrived that it could be the region’s worst in a decade.

But they said they didn’t expect the conditions to be as severe as those during the “Great Storm” of 1987, which was responsible for the deaths of 18 people in Britain and four in France.

In 1990, the “Burns Day Storm” left a trail of destruction from the Isles of Scilly to Denmark, killing 100 people, including 47 in the British Isles, according to the Met Office.

– Image / Current UK rain and wind map / weathermap



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