Airport lightening halts Gatwick take-offs

Departing flights at one of the UK's busiest airports were suspended today after lightning struck an air traffic control tower.

The incident, at Gatwick airport in West Sussex at around 2pm, led to the temporary failure of some ground-based systems.

Planes continued to land but there were no departures for around half an hour.

An airport spokeswoman said: "Planes are able to leave but on a restricted basis. We are advising passengers that there may be some delays."

A spokeswoman for air traffic control company Nats said: "There was a thunderstorm over Gatwick and some ground-based systems were affected."

No one was hurt and there was no structural damage.

West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service said it also received 999 calls about lightning strikes across the rest of the county.

Firefighters were tackling a serious fire at a large detached house in Maidenbower, near Crawley, after it was struck by lightning at around 2.30pm

Other emergency calls came from Bracklesham, Chichester, Burgess Hill, Three Bridges and Forest Row.

Kent Fire and Rescue Service also said it attended a number of incidents where homes had been set on fire by lightning.

Up to 30 firefighters tackled a blaze in Gravesend, while others responded to incidents in Gillingham, Tonbridge and Stanhope, near Ashford.

Southern said its train services between London and Brighton were disrupted due to a lightning strike between Horley and Three Bridges.

A spokesman said equipment was damaged and passengers should expect delays of up to 40 minutes in the Gatwick and Three Bridges areas.