High winds batter Britain, France; some flights diverted

AP News
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Posted: Mar 28, 2016 9:23 AM
High winds batter Britain, France; some flights diverted

LONDON (AP) — High winds battered Britain and western France Monday, wreaking havoc with flight schedules, ferry transport across the English Channel and closing the Port of Dover.

Passengers reported frightening attempts to land at London's airports in extreme high winds as Storm Katie caused some 130 flights at Gatwick and Heathrow airports to be diverted or canceled.

Dan Prance told Britain's Press Association that passengers on his flight from Budapest to Gatwick were so terrified that many burst into tears with relief when they finally touched down after being diverted to Birmingham.

"You could see from the windows there was a massive storm happening outside, the wind and rain was smashing against the glass," he said. "We got closer to the ground at Gatwick until the captain suddenly aborted the landing and we went shooting back up into the sky to attempt again."

Gatwick also reported some disruption on the road leading to the North Terminal and both airports advised passengers to check the status of their flights before traveling to the airport.

The Port of Dover was closed by the winds and rough seas Monday morning and ferry services linking France and Britain were suspended. The port has since reopened but ferry companies are reporting delays as vessels are slowed by heavy weather.

Roughly 100,000 homes in Britain have been left without power as winds of up to 106 mph (170 kph) hit parts of the country. The Met Office forecasting service warned of potential heavy flooding across southwestern England and issued 136 flood alerts.

Several highway bridges were closed as a precaution. Wind warnings were issued for London and parts of southeastern England. There was heavy rain in parts of northern England and Wales.

Road conditions were hazardous with several weather-related accidents reported. The Central Motorway Police Group, which patrols roads in the Midlands warned of "horrendous" conditions and advised people to stay inside on Easter Monday and eat chocolate.

In Brittany, in western France, 35,000 customers lost power because of the storm, according to regional power grid official Bernard Laurans, who spoke to French news channel iTele.

France's meteorological service warned of a "very unsettled" situation, issuing wind or wave alerts for 10 coastal areas and warning of gusts of up to 140 kph (85 mph) in exposed coastal areas.

British police continued to investigate the death Saturday of 7-year-old Summer Grant, who was playing on an inflatable bouncy castle that was swept away by a sudden gust of wind. An autopsy showed she died of multiple injuries after being carried some 150 yards (meters) by the winds.

A man and woman with the bouncy castle company have been released on bail after being arrested on suspicion of manslaughter.

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Raphael Satter in Paris contributed to this report.