Two dead after gales wreak havoc across Britain in stormiest winter for 30 years


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The Independent Online

Fierce storms battered Britain yesterday with heavy rain and winds of over 100mph as millions of people returned to work after the holidays.

The storms will continue today but will be less severe than yesterday's conditions, which forced the Port of Dover to close and damaged the roof of a stand at Epsom Downs racecourse, the Met Office said.

A man in his 50s died in Royal Tunbridge Wells after his van was hit by an oak tree. A passenger escaped unharmed.

A crew member of a tanker was killed after the vessel was hit by a large wave off the coast of the Devon/Cornwall border. And a lorry driver was also rescued by fire crews after becoming trapped under the cab of his HGV in Dorset. He had been thrown from the lorry when it was blown over by strong winds on the A37, near the A356 Dorchester Road junction.

Winds of 106mph were recorded in the north Pennines and of 105mph in Northern Ireland. There were also 102mph winds in Edinburgh and 84mph gusts in Dorset. Around the country, there were reports of fallen trees on railway tracks and power lines and local authorities issued flood warnings after rivers swelled.

Yesterday, P&O Ferries reported that its Dover-Dunkirk services were suffering delays of up to 60 minutes, and the company suspended its Larne-Cairnryan crossings. Ferry travel to the Isle of Wight was also affected, with Redjet, some Red Funnel, Hovertravel and some Wightlink services suspended because of rough conditions. Train services between London and Scotland were suspended at Newcastle upon Tyne while buses replaced trains on some rail services between London and Harrogate and Hull. Drivers planning to use the Dartford Crossing between Kent and Essex were advised of possible delays due to gales.

Environment Agency officers had to rescue a woman from her car after it became trapped in a flood in Chew Stoke, Somerset. In Dunoon, five people were injured when high winds overturned caravans yesterday. Three were airlifted to the Royal Alexandra hospital in Paisley for treatment. And at the Ferguson shipyard in Port Glasgow in Inverclyde, 15 people were rescued from a boat that was blown away during repairs.

Weather forecasters said this is the stormiest winter for nearly 30 years, with two deep Atlantic depressions in December and one yesterday.