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Sunday, 27 October, 2002, 22:03 GMT
Seven dead as gales batter UK
A tree crashes into railings outside the Natural History Museum in London
Trees have been blown down across the country
Four adults and three children have been killed and several others seriously injured as gales swept across England and Wales.

Winds reaching speeds of more than 90mph wreaked havoc on roads and railways across much of southern and central Britain.

Flood information
Call Floodline on 0845 988 1188

Most of the victims died as a result of falling trees and emergency services are warning people not to venture out unless absolutely necessary.

The winds eased later on Sunday, but are still reaching speeds of about 50mph.

And the Environment Agency has 14 flood warnings in place across England and Wales, with a further 15 areas on flood watch.

Flooded roads
Drivers are warned to take extreme care

Trees and high winds damaged power lines, leaving thousands of homes in England, Wales and Ireland without electricity.

In Shropshire a falling tree killed a 14-year-old girl who was a passenger in a car on the A41, as well as injuring two other occupants. Another falling tree in nearby Much Wenlock left a man with head injuries.

In Wales a man was killed on the A40 at Bwlch, just east of Brecon, when a large branch fell on his car at the height of the storms.

Ambulance crews found the man trapped and seriously injured, but he was declared dead at the scene before he could be freed.

Toddler killed

A 12-year-old boy died in Costessey on the outskirts of Norwich, Norfolk, after a falling tree was blown onto him while he was walking his dog with a group of friends.

Also in Norfolk, Eric White -a man in his 50s - was killed by a falling tree in his garden in Whittington, near Downham Market.

London streets were also hit by the storms
About 100,000 properties were expected to be without electricity through the night in East Anglia.

Electricity company 24Seven said at the peak of the strong winds 157,000 homes and businesses in the region were without power.

In Felixstowe, Suffolk, a three-year-old boy died after suffering head injuries when a tree fell on his pushchair.

The toddler had been out with his mother in woodland during the stormy weather. He was pronounced dead after being taken to hospital.

A 22-year-old woman died in Oxford city centre after an oak tree fell on her car, crushing the roof.

Her sisters, aged nine and 13 escaped with minor injuries.

The Association of British Insurers said the financial impact of the storms would be high.

Rescue operation

A spokesman said: "We are talking tens of millions of pounds in the level of claims - up to 50m - rather than hundreds of millions."

He said the cost to the industry compared with about 2bn costs following the ferocious storm of January 1990, and more than 1bn for the October 1987 storms.

Poor conditions hampered a rescue operation to help an injured fisherman stuck on a boat 170 miles off the Scilly Isles, early on Sunday.

A helicopter crew from RAF Chivenor in Devon winched the unconscious man to safety from a Spanish fishing vessel after a seven-hour rescue effort.

The fisherman - who had suffered internal bleeding - later regained consciousness.

The weather also contributed to a collision between a ferry and Royal Navy frigate HMS St Albans in Portsmouth, which left the warship "significantly" damaged on its upper decks.

Transport chaos

The weather-induced chaos also caused huge delays on the railways, with particularly severe disruption on both east and west coast mainlines.

Many train companies advised passengers not to travel on Sunday.

Virgin said there would be no services leaving London Euston on the west coast mainline until at least the end of the day.

On the east coast, trains between Kings Cross and Doncaster were suspended because of high winds, debris on the lines and damage to the infrastructure, with services also suspended between Leeds and Doncaster.

GNER, which had difficulty arranging alternative transport for passengers, said services were unlikely to resume on Sunday.

Flights were also affected with British Airways cancelling 32 services out of London's Heathrow airport and seven out of Gatwick. Thirty flights from Stansted were also cancelled. Passengers are advised to consult BA's website or phone 0845 77 999 77.

The Sunday race meeting at Aintree in Liverpool was cancelled, while theme parks such as Alton Towers in Staffordshire and Thorpe Park in Surrey were closed for safety reasons.

Sunny spells

The M4 Swansea Bridge and the M48 Severn Bridge were closed.

Most ferries to Ireland, Holland and France were also cancelled.

The BBC Weather Centre said that on Monday, most areas of Britain would have sunny spells.

Showers are likely, mainly over western and northern areas, and it will be wintry over high ground in the north.

It will get cloudy, with rain in the south west by evening, and it will still be breezy.

The BBC's Sonya Mayet
"Fallen trees litter roadsides"
East Anglia Ambulance Service's Matthew Ware
"It's been a tragic day in Norfolk and Suffolk"
See also:

27 Oct 02 | England
26 Oct 02 | UK
22 Oct 02 | Scotland
22 Oct 02 | N Ireland
08 Sep 02 | Scotland
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