Avalanche kills climbers as 70mph gales sweep country

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The Independent Online

Four people were killed during the weekend as gales reaching 77mph swept across much of Britain.

Four people were killed during the weekend as gales reaching 77mph swept across much of Britain.

Two climbers died in an avalanche in the Scottish Highlands, and two people were killed when rubble was blown from buildings in high winds.

Mountain rescuers found the bodies of the two men yesterday morning after they failed to return from a climb on Beinn Dearg, Braemore, in Wester Ross. Police later named the pair as Ian Collier, 42, from Alloa near Stirling, and Douglas McQuaker, 35, from Glasgow.

The bodies were found at the foot of Penguin Gully just after 7.15am. Police said the recovery operation had to be called off because of atrocious weather conditions in the mountains. The bodies were eventually recovered with the help of the Stornoway coastguard helicopter and taken to Ullapool.

A 56-year-old woman died when rubble was blown from a derelict building in Rugby, Warwickshire. A man, aged 58, died in a similar accident yesterday in Glasgow.

Their deaths came as parts of England and Wales were battered by gusts caused by a small but vigorous low pressure area across northern England. The Mumbles, near Swansea, south Wales, recorded the strongest gust of 77mph.

Hundreds of football fans at the Division One game between Birmingham City and Wolverhampton Wanderers escaped unharmed when sheets of corrugated roofing were torn off the roof of a stand in gusts of up to 70mph. Spectators at the St Andrews ground in Birmingham said the wreckage, described by one supporter as like a "flying razor blade", landed on empty seats.

Meanwhile, firefighters rescued a woman at the Brookside Caravan Park in Narberth, Pembrokeshire, after a tree was blown on to a caravan.

And a lifeboat that was sent to help a 20ft fishing boat, which had run aground on sand banks at Newport, south Wales, got into difficulties itself.

Elsewhere, hundreds of passengers on the west coast main line were stranded on seven trains around Hanslope, between Rugby and Northampton, after power lines collapsed.

The old Severn Bridge was also closed to traffic because of the winds and only reopened after almost six hours.

In Cumbria, snow closed all but one lane of the M6 near Penrith and blocked the A66 between Cumbria and Co Durham and the A6. Several smaller passes in northern England remained closed.