March 10, 2008 / 4:49 PM / 12 years ago

Two killed as storm batters France and Britain

RENNES, France (Reuters) - An Atlantic storm battered southern Britain and northern France on Monday, killing two people, sinking a trawler in the Channel and blowing a cargo vessel aground on the French coast.

The storm, which began late on Sunday, brought down trees and power lines and pounded coastal defences.

French maritime authorities said a 26-year-old man fell into the sea when his small boat was hit by a large wave on Sunday in the small port of Relecq-Kerhuon, near Brest in the far west of Brittany.

His body was found early on Monday. A second man who was in the vessel was rescued by friends in another boat nearby.

A woman motorist was crushed to death when a branch torn from a tree by gale-force winds landed on her car at Saint-Denis le Ferment in southern Normandy, northwest of Paris, French media reports said.

A trawler from the port of Saint-Brieuc on the north coast of Brittany sank in winds of up to 110 km an hour off Guernsey in the Channel Islands, French authorities said. The crew of five were picked up by other fishing boats.

The Dutch-registered cargo ship Artemis was blown onto a beach at the Atlantic coastal resort of Les Sables d’Olonne. Bad weather prevented an attempt to refloat the vessel before nightfall.

Gales brought down power lines, cutting electricity supplies briefly to several thousand homes in northwest France.

Across the Channel, winds gusting at more than 130 km an hour brought down trees, ripped off roof tiles and damaged power lines, cutting electricity to 10,000 homes in southern Britain.

British coastguard tugs were sent to help a 7,500-tonne tanker with 13 crew members on board which was drifting in high seas off the Isle of Wight and escorted it to Southampton.

Hurricane-force winds in the Channel forced the closure of the English port of Dover, where about 12 ferry crossings were cancelled on Monday.

British airport authorities said dozens of flights were delayed or cancelled and train services were disrupted by falling branches on railway tracks.

British and French forecasters said further storms were expected overnight on Monday.

Reporting by Andrew Dobbie in Paris, Tim Castle and Andrew Hough in London; editing by Andrew Roche

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