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Storms batter Britain and France

London, Paris, Dec 25 (): Hurricane-force winds and pounding rain lashed Britain and France on Tuesday, killing at least five people, disturbing Christmas travel and leaving tens of thousands without power.

Winds of up to 90 mph (145 kph) blew on both sides of the Channel. In Britain, three people were killed by the strong winds and heavy downpour that caused rivers to flood, traffic bottlenecks, and rail, flight and ferry services to be cancelled.

Among the three dead, one man in Devon, southwest England, was pulled into the fast-flowing river when he jumped into the river to rescue his dog, police said. Two other deaths were reported in car accidents linked to bad weather.

A Russian sailor was also thought to be dead after he fell overboard from a damaged cargo ship off the north-west French coast about 220 kilometres (135 miles) from Brest. Late Monday, the rescue workers called off their search.

French maritime officials said in another incident, Frenchman Damien Guillou and Swiss sailor Bernard Stamm were saved from their racing yacht by a Norwegian vessel. Their boat had been damaged by huge waves and Force 10 winds off the British coast.

Air, road and rail traffic were disrupted across France, England and Wales. In few places of the northern Netherlands, ferry services were disrupted.

Airports in the south of Britain were interrupted with some flights from Britain’s busiest airport, Heathrow, delayed or cancelled, while the country’s second busiest airport, Gatwick, said that one terminal had been hit by a major power outage.

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 had put 23 departments on orange alert — its second-highest level for high winds and waves. But it was lowered to 16 yesterday afternoon.

Britain’s weather forecasting agency, the Met Office, said conditions would ease on Christmas Day and Boxing Day but warned of further wet and stormy weather on Friday.

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