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WEATHER REPORT
High winds, rain lash Europe leaving two dead, one missing at sea
by Staff Writers
Paris (AFP) Dec 23, 2013


Two dead as rain and wind hit Britain
London (AFP) Dec 23, 2013 - A man and a woman died in separate river incidents on Monday as high winds and heavy rain lashed Britain, disrupting transport as people headed home for the Christmas holidays.

The Met Office, Britain's national forecaster, issued amber warnings for rain -- the second most severe level -- for much of the southern half of England and Wales.

The body of a man was found in the swollen Rothay River in Cumbria, northwest England, where police said the water was "very fast-moving and dangerous".

"It was fast flowing, and a lot more water than normal, so yes, it's fair to say that the weather contributed to the problem," said Inspector Chris Wright of Cumbria Police.

North Wales Police officers and rescue teams were also called after reports of a woman in a river at Bethesda, Gwynedd, at 3:57pm (1557GMT).

"Unfortunately the woman was pronounced dead at the scene," a spokesman said.

Around 30 flights from London's Heathrow airport were cancelled. Most were short-haul routes to Europe.

Train companies reduced or cancelled some services and drivers were battling difficult conditions on motorways because of excess surface water.

Strong winds forced the closure of the Dartford crossing bridge, a key link in the main M25 motorway around London, causing long queues of traffic on one of Britain's busiest roads.

The Met Office warned that flooding was possible in southwest England as heavy rain fell on already saturated ground.

In Cornwall, 3,000 homes and businesses were without power after high winds brought down overhead power lines.

Rail operators were bracing for disruption, putting hundreds of engineers on standby to help clear potential debris from tracks.

Some of the busiest train lines, such as the one linking London and Birmingham in central England, were forced to operate under speed restrictions because of the conditions.

But Eurostar train services linking Britain with France and Belgium were unaffected.

In London, Winter Wonderland -- a miniature theme park and Christmas market in Hyde Park -- was forced to close for the day for safety reasons.

Rain and winds also battered Ireland, where more than 5,000 telephone landlines were put out of action over the weekend by high winds.

High winds and heavy rain battered parts of Europe on Monday, leaving at least two people dead and one man lost at sea off France, and disrupting travel two days from Christmas.

In Britain a man was found in a swollen river in northwest England where the water was "fast flowing, and a lot more water than normal", said Inspector Chis Wright of the Cumbria police, adding: "It's fair to say that the weather contributed to the problem."

The other victim was a woman swept away in a river in north Wales, police said.

Rescue teams late Monday were searching the sea off the northwest French coast about 220 kilometres (135 miles) from Brest where officials say a Russian man fell overboard from a damaged cargo ship.

The Atlantic maritime authorities said the man fell into the sea as winds packed nearly 120 kilometres per hour, and swells reached up to seven metres (25 feet).

Across Brittany nearly 18,000 homes were without electricity, the French utility ERDF said, and air and rail traffic was disrupted there as well as in neighbouring Normandy.

The Met Office, Britain's national forecaster, issued amber warnings for rain -- the second most severe level -- for much of the southern half of England and Wales.

In all the French weather service has put 23 departments on orange alert -- its second highest level -- for high winds and waves.

Around 30 flights from London's Heathrow airport were cancelled, most of them short-haul routes to Europe.

Britain's train companies reduced or cancelled some services, with some of the busiest lines, such as the one linking London and Birmingham in central England, forced to operate under speed restrictions because of the conditions.

But Eurostar train services linking Britain with France and Belgium were unaffected.

However, ferry services across the Channel from France to Britain were cancelled after an alert that gale-force winds would batter the region,

The Met Office also warned that flooding was possible in southwest England as heavy rain fell on already saturated ground.

In Cornwall, 3,000 homes and businesses were without power after high winds brought down overhead power lines.

Rain and winds also battered Ireland, where more than 5,000 telephone landlines were out of order over the weekend due to high winds.

The weather was also putting a bit of a damper on some holiday activities ahead of Christmas on Wednesday.

Local French officials were advising the organisers of events like Christmas markets and fairgrounds to reinforce any of their temporary installations.

In London, Winter Wonderland -- a miniature theme park and Christmas market in Hyde Park -- was forced to close for the day for safety reasons.

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