More major storm sparks travel chaos
LONDON, March 11, 2008 - Heavy storms were expected to cause moretravel chaos in Britain Tuesday, with France also preparing for more badweather, after three vessels ran into problems in the Channel a day earlier. Five French fishermen were rescued from a trawler which sank late Monday ingale-force winds off the Channel island of Guernsey, maritime officials said,while a body was separately recovered off the coast of Brittany in northwestFrance, feared to be that of a man missing since Sunday. A woman also died in Normandy after she was hit by a branch. In Britain, more than a hundred flights were cancelled at airportsincluding London's Heathrow and the port of Dover was temporarily closed dueto the storms, described by experts as possibly the biggest of the winter thatcould cause hundreds of millions of pounds (euros/dollars) in damage. Amid gale-force winds of up to 80 miles (130 kilometres) per hour anddriving rain, airports were among the worst hit with cancellations and delaysbrought on by precautionary measures taken by air traffic controllers. A spokesman for airports operator BAA said that 115 flights from Heathrowhad been cancelled by Monday evening, but could not give details on the number of cancellations from London's Gatwick airport. Prime Minister Gordon Brown had to cancel a planned meeting with SlovakPrime Minister Robert Fico after his flight from Bratislava was cancelled dueto the bad weather. Sweeping in from the Atlantic, the storm hit first in Cornwall and Devon inthe southwest of the country, before moving east across England and Wales. There was widespread disruption on trains in southern England, includingLondon where underground train services were also hit by flooding, while speed restrictions were imposed on trains because of heavy rain and high winds. About 30 people were rescued when a beachfront caravan park was flooded by seawater, which breached defences near Chichester, on the English south coast, a coastguard spokesman said. Further west a Swedish tanker with 13 crew on board got into difficultiesoff the Isle of Wight, coastguards said. Two coastguard tugs were sent to helpthe stricken 11,000-tonne vessel, the Astral. Association of British Insurers Director of General Insurance and HealthNick Starling said that while it was too early to say how much the damagecaused by the storms could cost, "events like this can cost hundreds ofmillions of pounds". In France an 88-metre (290 foot) long cargo vessel, the Artemis, ranaground on a beach at Sables-d'Olonne, on the Atlantic coast, according to thelocal government office. Later in the day a French trawler, the Marie Louise Bert, sank: the vessel,based in Saint-Brieuc with five crew, went down 41 nautical miles west ofGuernsey in winds of up to 110 kmh. All those on board were rescued by nearby vessels, according to the localFrench government office, after a French helicopter and a Channel Islandsrescue airplane were dispatched to the scene. Meanwhile a body was found off the Brittany coast, feared to be that of a26-year-old man missing since falling into the sea at Relecq-Kerhuon, near theport city of Brest. The distribution arm of energy group EDF also said in a statement thatabout 60,000 French households were without electricity on Monday because ofthe storms, with a company spokeswoman telling AFP that the situation couldget worse as the evening progressed. At one point the wind was gusting up to 155 kph (87 mph), according toFrench weather experts. "We haven't had one this strong this year," said Emmanuel Bocri, aforecaster for Meteo France, adding: "In general there are one or two of thisstrength each winter."