Man dies and six missing as storms batter British Isles

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One man was killed and there were fears for six others last night after extreme weather battered the British Isles, causing transport chaos and leaving thousands without power.

The severe weather also caused a 4,500-tonne vessel which broke down in the North Sea to begin to drift towards a gas platform 75 miles off Lincolnshire last night. The nine-strong crew from the ship, which has a cargo of fertiliser, and 20 non-essential workers from the platform were airlifted to safety by the RAF.

The man killed was travelling in a car in the the village of Britty Common in Somerset when a tree collapsed on it. Meanwhile, a search was under way off Falmouth, Cornwall for a woman believed to have been blown overboard from a cargo vessel.

In Ireland, hopes were fading for five fishermen whose trawler went missing last night off Wexford.

Around the UK several other people were involved in serious accidents caused by high winds that reached up to 86mph (138kph). A 17-year-old girl in Warwickshire was airlifted to hospital with suspected spinal injuries after the car she was driving was hit by a tree.

In Hertfordshire a woman escaped with only minor injuries when a tree fell on her on a footpath, while another woman escaped injury when a tree fell on her car in Sevenoaks, Kent.

In Wales around 80,000 homes were left without power after falling trees brought down cables, and in Scotland engineers dealt with 60 power line faults.

Kew Gardens, London, was evacuated after several trees were blown over.

Motorists and rail passengers faced disruption because of uprooted trees and flooding, prompting restrictions on many major roads and bridges. Ferry services also suffered. More than 170 areas of England and Wales were on flood alert, including more than 50 areas where residents and businesses were warned to take immediate action. The most severe was around the rivers Vyrnwy and Severn ­ straddling the English-Welsh border ­ west of Shrewsbury. The area was under a severe flood warning, indicating " extreme danger to life and property".

In Shap, Cumbria, 50mm of rain fell in 12 hours between 6pm on Wednesday and 6am yesterday.More unusual weather was expected with "tropical" air set to take temperatures to 15C (59F).