Seven die in worst storms for a decade

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The Independent Online

At least seven people were killed and thousand of others left without electricity as gales reaching 120mph battered parts of Britain in the worst storms for a decade.

At least seven people were killed and thousand of others left without electricity as gales reaching 120mph battered parts of Britain in the worst storms for a decade.

Emergency services across the country were stretched to the limit dealing with overturned vehicles, collapsed power lines, fallen trees, structural damage to buildings and flooding as winds and driving rain swept across the UK and Ireland.

The worst-hit areas were in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the north of England. The storm caused widespread disruption to road, rail and ferry services. Forecasters predicted the bad weather would move east overnight.

One man was killed when his lorry overturned in "atrocious" conditions in the Glencoe area, blocking the A82 Inverness-to-Fort William road.

Another driver died on the A1 in North Yorkshire when his lorry was one of eight heavy goods vehicles to overturn in unconnected incidents.

In Tyne and Wear the driver of an HGV was killed when it rolled down an embankment between Seaton Burn and Gosforth Park.

In Chester-le-Street, a female passenger was killed when her vehicle was blown off the road.

Another woman, in York, was killed by falling masonry.

At least two people had to be taken to hospital after they were hit by flying debris in Morpeth, Northumberland, and Ripon Marketplace, in North Yorkshire.

In Dunkeld, Perthshire, a man was killed and a woman injured by a falling tree while walking in the grounds of the Hilton Dunkeld House Hotel, and Strathclyde Police said a lorry driver died when his vehicle overturned in high winds on the A77, near Monkton, Ayrshire.

Power lines were brought down across the country, with more than 40,000 homes in northern Scotland, 1,000 homes in Co Galway in the Republic of Ireland and about 6,300 customers in Northern Ireland left without electricity.

Rail services were badly disrupted. Railtrack imposed an emergency 50mph speed restriction across the Scottish network, while ScotRail cancelled all its electric services, affecting Glasgow's Cathcart Circle, the Argyle Line between Dalmuir and Motherwell, Milngavie to Lanark, the Hamilton Circle, Edinburgh to North Berwick and the Largs branch.

At Stanley junction, between Pitlochry and Perth, 120 people on the GNER service from Inverness to London King's Cross were stranded for several hours after their train was hit by a falling tree.

Ferries were badly hit, with many services in the west of Scotland delayed or diverted and sailings between Stranraer and Belfast cancelled.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency issued 12 flood warnings, in Perthshire, Inverclyde and North Ayrshire. The Environment Agency announced 23 flood warnings for areas in Wales, the Midlands, Cumbria and Buckinghamshire.

Coastal regions were warned to expect higher than usual tide levels and strong winds continuing through the week.

As the gales gathered force during the afternoon some 200 pupils from Dunn Street Primary School in Jarrow, South Tyneside, were sent home after windows shattered.

Many road bridges, including the Erskine Bridge in Renfrewshire and the Forth Bridge, were closed, as was the A66 trans-Pennine route and the A689 road across the Newton Cap viaduct at Bishop Auckland, Co Durham.

Police throughout Britain asked lorry drivers not to travel after a spate of incidents involving overturned lorries in Scotland and northern England. "It is chaos everywhere. We are inundated with calls," said a Northumberland Fire and Rescue spokesman after an articulated lorry was blown over on top of a car at Stannington, Northumberland. "On the A1 wagons are turning over all over the place," the spokesman said.

In Glasgow there was restricted access to the Kingston Bridge, the busiest motorway bridge in Europe.

Other road closures included the A85 Lochearnhead to St Fillans Road at Lochearnhead, the A85 at Glen Ogle between Lix Toll and Crainlarich, the A829 Aberfoyle to Inversnaid Road, the A84 at Kilmahog north of Callander and the A75 Gretna to Stranraer in Dumfries and Galloway.

A woman and her two grandchildren escaped with their lives after a tree crashed on to their car, missing them by inches, near Bournemouth. Barbara Compton, 55, was taking Hannah, seven, and two-year-old Ben on a day trip on Saturday when, minutes into the journey, 75mph winds blew down a 25ft beech tree on to the front of her Volkswagen Passat car. The tree smashed the windscreen, covering all three occupants with shards of glass.

Mrs Compton, a cook for a nursery school, said: "I braked very hard and managed to miss the main part of the tree. Luckily it was only the branches that came down on to the car. It was just a matter of seconds, another foot, and the results could have been so very disastrous. It was a miracle that we weren't killed."

Mrs Compton suffered scratches and bruises. Her daughter-in-law Vicky Ridings, 30, said Hannah, who was sitting in the front, was extremely shocked but otherwise unhurt. Ben, who was in the back, had thought the whole experience was a game. "My son wants to do it again, he thinks it was a brilliant day out," Ms Ridings said.

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