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1987: Hurricane winds batter southern England

VIDEO : Britain expected to miss the worst of the storms

Southern Britain has begun a massive clear-up operation after the worst night of storms in living memory.

At least 13 people are known to have died and many dozens have been injured, mostly by falling trees and buildings.

Rescue workers faced an unprecedented number of call-outs as winds hit 94 mph (151 km/h) in the capital and over 110 mph (177 km/h) in the Channel Islands.

Weather forecasters have faced criticism for failing to predict the severity of the weather.

The worst affected areas were along the south coast - in Kent five people died including two seamen in Dover Harbour, and in Dorset two firemen were killed as they answered an emergency call.

The stormy weather was first predicted at the beginning of the week when the Meteorological Office identified a depression strengthening over the Atlantic.

Last night BBC weatherman Michael Fish reassured viewers the system would track along the English Channel, but instead it cut a swathe right across the south of the country.

Commuters were today advised to stay at home as hundreds of roads and railway lines remain blocked by fallen trees.

Some houses and apartments had their roofs blown off. On the Isle of Wight the famous Shanklin Pier, nearly a century old, was reduced to driftwood and in Jaywick, Essex, a caravan park was flattened.

Along the south coast damage to yachts and boat yards was extensive. In Folkestone a Sea Link ferry was blown aground and its crew had to be rescued.

Huge payouts

The insurance industry is bracing itself for huge payouts. Most household policies cover storm damage, and thousands of homeowners have already started claims.

In the London of Borough of Ealing alone, 600 calls came from people whose homes and cars had been struck by falling trees and debris.

Len Turner of Ealing Council said central funding from the government might be needed to deal with the exceptional clean-up costs local councils are facing.

"It's going to take an enormous amount of effort and money; I hope we can look to the Government to support us because the burden on local rate payers is going to be enormous."

In Context
The storm cost a total of 18 lives and an estimated 1 billion in repairs and clear-up costs. Hundreds of people were injured.

Around 15 million trees were lost and hundreds of thousands of homes were without power for more than 24 hours.

By the time most people went to bed, exceptionally strong winds had not even been mentioned in national radio and TV weather broadcasts.

Michael Fish's famous line that there wouldn't be a hurricane was actually correct. He was referring to a tropical cyclone in the West Atlantic.

Officially the gusts were locally hurricane force in strength but not sufficiently widespread.

According to the Met Office the last storm of similar magnitude in England occurred in 1703.


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