PARIS (AFP) - High winds and heavy rain battered parts of Europe on Monday, leaving at least two people dead and one man lost at sea off France, and disrupting travel two days from Christmas.
In Britain, a man was found in a swollen river in north-west England where the water was "fast flowing, and a lot more water than normal", said Inspector Chis Wright of the Cumbria police, adding: "It's fair to say that the weather contributed to the problem." The other victim was a woman swept away in a river in north Wales, police said.
Rescue teams late Monday were searching the sea off the northwest French coast about 220 kilometres from Brest where officials say a Russian man fell overboard from a damaged cargo ship.
The Atlantic maritime authorities said the man fell into the sea as winds packed nearly 120 kmh, and swells reached up to seven metres.
Across Brittany, nearly 18,000 homes were without electricity, the French utility ERDF said, and air and rail traffic was disrupted there as well as in neighbouring Normandy.
The Met Office, Britain's national forecaster, issued amber warnings for rain - the second most severe level - for much of the southern half of England and Wales.
In all the French weather service has put 23 departments on orange alert - its second highest level - for high winds and waves.
Around 30 flights from London's Heathrow airport were cancelled, most of them short-haul routes to Europe.
Britain's train companies reduced or cancelled some services, with some of the busiest lines, such as the one linking London and Birmingham in central England, forced to operate under speed restrictions because of the conditions.
But Eurostar train services linking Britain with France and Belgium were unaffected.
However, ferry services across the Channel from France to Britain were cancelled after an alert that gale-force winds would batter the region, The Met Office also warned that flooding was possible in south-west England as heavy rain fell on already saturated ground.
In Cornwall, 3,000 homes and businesses were without power after high winds brought down overhead power lines.
Rain and winds also battered Ireland, where more than 5,000 telephone landlines were out of order over the weekend due to high winds.
The weather was also putting a bit of a damper on some holiday activities ahead of Christmas on Wednesday.
Local French officials were advising the organisers of events like Christmas markets and fairgrounds to reinforce any of their temporary installations.
In London, Winter Wonderland - a miniature theme park and Christmas market in Hyde Park - was forced to close for the day for safety reasons.