High winds, rain lash Europe, killing two
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 before Christmas.
In Britain, a man was found dead 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 fatality was a woman swept away in a river in north Wales, police said.
A Russian man was also feared dead after falling overboard from a damaged cargo ship off the northwest French coast about 220 kilometers from Brest.
Rescue workers called off their search for him after scouring the area late Monday.
The Atlantic maritime authorities said the man fell into the sea as winds packed nearly 120 km/h and swells reached up to 7 meters.
A passenger aboard a Brittany Ferries vessel suffering intense spinal pain because of the rough seas also had to be evacuated by helicopter to Brest, the maritime authorities said.
Across north and northwest France, about 90,000 homes lost electricity, said French utility ERDF, and air and rail traffic were disrupted in the Brittany and Normandy regions.
The Met Office, Britain’s national forecaster, issued amber warnings for rain — its 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 secondhighest level — for high winds and waves.
Around 30 flights from London’s Heathrow Airport were canceled, most of them shorthaul routes to Europe.
Britain’s train companies reduced or canceled 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.
Eurostar train services linking Britain with France and Belgium were unaffected. However, ferry services across the Channel from France to Britain were canceled after an alert of gale-force winds.
Shoppers brave wet and windy weather in London’s Oxford Street on Monday. British retailers risked missing out on the traditional pre-Christmas rush as dire weather hit the country.