Expatica news

Major storm batters Britain, France, Belgium

   LONDON, March 10, 2008  Heavy storms disrupted air, sea and road
transport in Britain on Monday, while a cargo ship was swept onto a beach in
France and one person reported missing, emergency officials said.
   Dozens of flights were cancelled at British airports including London’s
Heathrow due to the storms, described as possibly the biggest of the winter by
British experts, local reports said.
   Belgium was also braced for the tempest, expected to last into Tuesday,
with forests bordering Brussels closed to traffic for fear of trees being
felled by the winds.
   Amid gale-force winds of up to 80 mph (130 kph) sweeping in from the
Atlantic and driving rain, British coastguards scrambled to help a stricken
tanker in the Channel off the southern English coast, a spokesman said.
   Airports were among the worst hit.
   "We have had to cancel some short-haul flights and there are likely to be
delays to all services," said a British Airways spokesman, citing
precautionary measures taken by air traffic controllers.
   The storm hit first in Cornwall and Devon in the southwest of the country,
before sweeping east across England and Wales.
   On land there was widespread disruption on trains in southern England,
including London where underground train services were also hit by flooding,
while fallen trees were reported in a number of places, disrupting road
   At sea, the main Channel port of Dover closed as winds of up to 80 mph (130
kph) hit the south coast, preventing ferries from operating.
   Further west a Swedish tanker with 13 crew on board got into difficulties
off the Isle of Wight, coastguards said.
   At least one coastguard tug was sent to help the stricken 11,000-tonne
vessel. "We launched in force 11 winds," said lifeboat spokesman John
Keyworth. "The eye of the storm one might say. It was pretty horrendous."
   Prime Minister Gordon Brown held talks with emergency services chiefs on
Sunday night, ahead of the widely forecast tempest.
   The storm was described as a "potent cocktail of strong winds, wave action
and high tides from tonight until Wednesday" by Simon Hughes of the
Environment Agency.
   The Agency issued seven severe flood warnings, along with 44 flood
warnings, while Britain’s Meteorological Office put severe weather warnings in
place for all of England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
   In France meanwhile an 88-metre (289 ft)-long cargo vessel, the "Artemis,"
ran aground on a beach at Sables-d’Olonne, on the Atlantic west coast,
according to the local government office.
   Slightly further north, in Britanny, a search resumed for a 26-year-old man
missing since Sunday after falling in the sea in Relecq-Kerhuon, near the port
city of Brest.
   Elsewhere the first stage of the classic Paris-Nice cycle race south of
Paris was shortened due to heavy winds.
   "We haven’t had one this strong this year," said Emmanuel Bocri, a
forecaster for Meteo France, adding: "In general there are one or two of this
strength each winter."