- POSTED: 24 Dec 2013 19:41
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Gale-force winds and pounding rain on Tuesday lashed Britain and France, killing at least four people, disrupting Christmas travel and leaving tens of thousands without power.
PARIS: Gale-force winds and pounding rain on Tuesday lashed Britain and France, killing at least four people, disrupting Christmas travel and leaving tens of thousands without power.
In Britain, two people died in pre-Christmas storms and there were two other deaths in car accidents linked to bad weather.
A Russian sailor was also feared dead after falling overboard from a damaged cargo ship off the northwest French coast about 220 kilometres (135 miles) from Brest. Rescue workers called off their search late Monday.
In another incident, Swiss sailor Bernard Stamm and French man Damien Guillou were rescued from their racing yacht by a Norwegian vessel. Their boat had been damaged by huge waves and Force 10 winds off the British coast, French maritime officials said.
A total of 240,000 French homes, mainly in the northwestern region of Brittany, were without electricity on Tuesday, according to power supplier ERDF.
About 150,000 homes in Britain were also without power, the Energy Experts Association said, adding that Kent, Surrey and Sussex were among the worst affected.
Air, road and rail traffic was disrupted across France, England and Wales. Ferry services in parts of northern Netherlands were disrupted and a number of buildings have been damaged, including the PSV football stadium in the southern city of Eindhoven.
Britain's Environment Agency has 276 flood alerts and 162 more severe flood warnings in place, almost 120 of which are in southwest and southeast England. The Highways Agency has warned of dozens of road closures and localised flooding.
The French weather service has put 23 departments on orange alert -- its second-highest level -- for high winds and waves.
London's Gatwick Airport was expecting disruption, with some flights likely to be diverted to other airports, and Heathrow also warned of problems and urged passengers to check flight details.
Flights to and from the northern French city of Lille were cancelled on Tuesday due to strong winds. Some ferry services across the Channel have been halted as well as services between Scotland and Northern Ireland.
In France, rail links between the cities of Caen and Cherbourg were disrupted with felled trees blocking traffic but returned to normal on Tuesday morning. Flooding was reported from some areas such as Morlaix in Brittany where the city centre was under 1.4 metres (four feet) of water.
A woman was killed in a car accident in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, on Monday night in "difficult weather conditions" according to the West Midlands Ambulance Service, taking this week's death toll in Britain to four.
Earlier on Monday, a man's body was pulled from the River Rothesay in Ambleside in Cumbria, while a woman died in a river in Gwynedd, North Wales. Another person had died earlier in a road accident in bad weather.
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 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 their temporary installations.
The park of the chateau de Versailles, the palace built by the "Sun King" Louis XIV and one of France's top tourist destinations, was closed on Tuesday due to "strong winds", management said in a Twitter message.
In London, Winter Wonderland -- a miniature theme park and Christmas market in Hyde Park -- was forced to close on Monday for safety reasons.
A huge "snow dome" around the capital's iconic Eros sculpture at Piccadilly Circus deflated during the high winds, reportedly after it was pierced by the figure's bow, showering the central London square in fake snow.