Britain battered as 100mph winds bring trees down on roads and railway lines

Storms leave two dead and wreak havoc across country – with similar forecast for tonight

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The Independent Online

Two people were killed in fierce storms that battered Britain yesterday, with heavy rain and winds gusting over 100mph as millions of people returned to work after the Christmas and new year holidays.

Similarly foul weather will continue today, the Met Office said, 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.

A man, in his fifties, died in Royal Tunbridge Wells after his van was hit by an oak tree, and a crewman died after being injured on board a tanker in the English Channel. Paul Harragan, who lives near to the scene of the accident which killed the unnamed van driver in Kent, said the tree had "completely crushed" the vehicle.

A second man, who did not wish to be named, said he had been travelling towards North Farm Industrial Estate when he was forced to make a diversion. A Kent Police spokesman said the driver was pronounced dead at the scene.

The death of the man in the English Channel was caused by a large wave which hit a tanker 13 miles off the coast on the border of Devon and Cornwall.

A Royal Navy helicopter based at RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall airlifted the man, who was unconscious, to Derriford Hospital in Plymouth, where he later died.

A lorry driver was 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 to 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 trees fell on to railway tracks and power lines and local authorities issued flood warnings after rivers swelled.

Forecasters said they expected those winds to die down today, saying they would reach up to 60mph in parts of Wales, north-western parts of Northern Ireland and in northern Scotland. A yellow weather warning advising people to be aware of the risk of "localised flooding" in Wales was in place last night.

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 gale-force winds.

Gale force: The worst-hit areas

High winds caused havoc across the country with 106mph gusts recorded at Great Dun Fell in the north Pennines in East Cumbria; gusts of 102 mph in the Scottish capital; and gusts of 97mph to the west, in North Lanarkshire.

The Port of Dover was forced to close between 10.30am and 1.20pm because of rough seas. Ferries to the Isle of Wight were also suspended due to the bad conditions.

Parts of Wales and England saw 5mm to 6mm of rain in an hour and a further 6mm was expected today.