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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Four killed as Storm Eunice batters UK as falling trees kill 2

At least four people have been killed by falling trees and debris as Storm Eunice continues to batter the UK with winds of up to 122mph – causing widespread damage and travel chaos for millions across the country.

A man in his early 60s became the first known victim when he was killed by a falling tree in County Wexford in the Republic of Ireland while out working to clear the area.

The second victim, a man in his 20s, is believed to have been killed when a Mercedez-Benz Sprinter he was travelling in collided with a tree in the market town of Alton, Hampshire, this afternoon.

Hampshire Constabulary said the driver, also in his 20s, was taken to Southampton General Hospital with serious injuries, while officers investigated the ‘exact circumstances’ of the incident.

The third victim was confirmed tonight as a woman in her 30s, who was crushed by a tree at around 4pm while being driven in car by a man on Muswell Hill Road in Haringey, north London.

Metropolitan Police said the driver, also in his 30s, was taken to hospital, where his condition is not believed to be life-threatening.

Peray Ahmet, leader of Haringey Council, said: ‘I was deeply saddened to receive the news that a member of the public has died after a tree fell on a car in Highgate.

‘On behalf of everyone at Haringey Council I express my deepest sympathies to her family at this incredibly difficult time.

‘Our teams are working tirelessly to clear fallen trees and debris and to secure any structures that pose a risk to the public. I urge all residents to follow official advice and be alert to the dangers that come with the extreme weather that continues to affect the borough.’

Meanwhile a man in his 50s died in Netherton, Merseyside, after debris struck the windscreen of a van he was travelling in, making him the fourth known victim of the storm.

Merseyside Police said the unnamed passenger was pronounced dead at the scene while the driver of the vehicle was not injured. The family has been informed.

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More than 165,000 Britons were left without power on Friday after England was hit by the strongest winds on record which saw the roof of The O2 ripped apart, lorries blown over and trees felled amid travel chaos.

The top speed of 122mph at Needles on the Isle of Wight today is provisionally the highest gust ever in England and means Storm Eunice is now worse than the 1987 Great Storm when gusts peaked at 115mph in West Sussex.

Today’s red warnings ended at 12pm in the South West and 3pm in the South East, but forecasters continue to be concerned over ‘flying debris resulting in danger to life’ as well as ‘roofs blown off and power lines brought down’. An amber warning for gusts up to 80mph covers the whole of England until 9pm tonight having started at 5am.

Hundreds of schools were closed, all trains in Wales were suspended and rail passengers across England were told not to travel amid mass cancellations as the Army was on standby and the Government held a Cobra meeting. In addition, UK Power Networks said a total of around 168,000 customers across Britain were without power today.

Large parts of the white covering on The O2 in London’s Greenwich could be seen flapping in the strong winds today. Witness Mala Sharma said ‘more and more parts are getting ripped off’, adding ‘it’s going to be a safety issue for people around’. Ms Sharma said it happened ‘right in front of my eyes’ and that the damage ‘started off with a patch’ but then a ‘chunk’ of the roof on the building, formerly known as the Millennium Dome, ripped off.

Around 1,000 people were evacuated. London Fire Brigade Station Commander Chris Kamara said: ‘Firefighters cordoned off the area to ensure no one was injured by any further falling debris. There has been no actual collapse or structural damage to the building, but due to the nature of the canvas material which covers The O2, it has come loose in high winds and looks quite dramatic. Crews have made the scene safe and The O2 is now closed.’

An O2 spokesman said: ‘There has been some damage caused to the tent fabric in our roof at The O2. The affected areas have been cleared and The O2 will remain closed for the rest of the day. The safety of our visitors remains of paramount importance, and we will continue to assess the ongoing situation and act accordingly.’

London Fire Brigade declared a major incident – saying it was prioritising calls where there was a risk to life, after taking 550 calls between 10.30am and 1pm which was more than the average normally taken in a 24-hour period.

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