Winds of 80mph spoil start to Easter weekend

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WINDS OF up to 80mph hit parts of Britain last night and early today, ushering in what is likely to prove a cold and stormy Bank Holiday weekend for much of the country.

Although airports and roads were jammed as thousands of holidaymakers headed abroad, advice from the weathermen to those contemplating a break in Britain was: stay indoors and watch television.

Forecasters issued a severe weather warning for the south of England overnight, from the Bristol Channel to the Wash, as gales swept in all around the coast. Although the high winds are expected to moderate today, snow is expected over the weekend on high ground in Scotland, northern England and Wales, while rain is expected in the west.

The forecast helped to speed on the way the record 1.5 million Britons expected sail or fly to the sun over Easter. 'Most flights are fully booked', a spokeswoman for Heathrow airport, London, said. Spain tops the list of destinations, but short-haul breaks to cities such as Paris, Amsterdam and Copenhagen are also popular. An estimated 375,000 Britons have opted for a packaged holiday.

Much of Britain was affected by the gales yesterday, with Scotland seeing the worst of the weather. Roads were closed, speed limits imposed and ferries cancelled.

Hill-walkers were asked to pay special attention to safety over the Easter holiday to avoid putting added strain on rescue services. One man died when a gust of wind blew a Mercedes van off a bridge on the A726 near Kirkmuirhill in Strathclyde.

In the Hebrides, islanders on Barra were again without their daily Loganair flight from Glasgow because of gales and cross-winds yesterday. The 36-seater Shorts 360 aircraft which replaced the smaller Twin Otter has only been able to make the trip once in the past four days.

Mourners hoping to attend a funeral service on Tiree were told at Glasgow that the flight to the island and to Barra had been cancelled.

Among those unable to leave Tiree were two students on crutches who had been injured while taking part in the fifth annual Scottish universities' windsurfing championships.

Earlier this week Scott Grier, managing director of Loganair, and Hugh Lawson, Highlands and Islands Airports chief, were stranded on Barra when the Shorts could not land.

In Wales, high winds tore the front wall from a high street bank in Maesteg, West Glamorgan. Workmen were called in to check on a landslide that swallowed up a hillside behind a row of houses in the Rhondda Valley.

Cars were thrown into the air and a pub roof was torn off when a whirlwind ripped through Lulworth Cove, Dorset.