Storm wreaks havoc across Britain, France and the Netherlands
Five people die and flights cancelled as fierce winds batter Britain, France and Netherlands
Reuters in London
Hurricane-strength winds battered Britain, France and the Netherlands yesterday, killing five people, cutting power and forcing the cancellation of hundreds of flights and train journeys before the storm barrelled further into mainland Europe.
Gusts of up to 160 km/h lashed southern England and Wales in the worst storm recorded in Britain in a decade, while Denmark and Sweden were bracing for the impact there.
A 17-year-old girl died when a tree fell onto her home while she slept in Kent, southeast of London, while a man in his 50s was killed when a tree crushed his car in Watford, north of the capital.
A man and a woman were found dead in west London after several houses were damaged in a suspected gas explosion on a street where the storm blew a tree down. London police said the tree may have damaged gas pipes, causing the explosion.
A crane smashed into the Cabinet Office, a ministry in the heart of London, forcing Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg to cancel a news conference.
Thin volumes on London's financial markets suggested many traders had been stuck at home, along with millions of other commuters who would normally head into London.
Heavy winds also swept across the low-lying Netherlands, shutting down all train traffic to Amsterdam. Hurricane-force winds of more than 150 km/h were recorded on one of the islands off the northern Dutch coast.
Uprooted trees smashed cars, homes and sank a houseboat along an Amsterdam canal. Roofs were blown off buildings and several houseboats were ripped off their moorings, police said.
A woman was killed and two people were seriously hurt by falling trees in the Dutch capital and a ferry carrying 1,000 people from the English city of Newcastle was unable to dock in the port of IJmuiden and returned to sea, RTL television said.
Fifty flights at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport were cancelled and Rotterdam Port, Europe's busiest, said incoming and outgoing vessels were delayed.
In France, winds topping 100 km/h struck the north and northwest, felling trees, whipping up seas and cutting power supplies to around 75,000 homes, according to the ERDF electricity distribution company.
Helicopters and a sea-rescue team searched for a 47-year-old woman swept out to sea by a wave during a cliff sortie on Belle Ile, an island off Brittany where high winds generated waves of up to six metres, according to the coastguard in the region.
Homes and businesses were counting the cost of the damage as a British Met Office spokeswoman said the worst of the storm in Britain had passed by late morning.
Some 486,000 properties in Britain were left without power, UK Power Networks said. By mid-afternoon, 115,000 properties were still without power.
Transport was hard hit in Britain. London's commuter train service was shut while several Tube lines were suspended.
London's Heathrow airport said 130 flights were cancelled.