Storm Katie wreaks travel chaos in Britain

A damaged construction crane in south London shows the force of strong winds brought on by Storm Katie yesterday.
A damaged construction crane in south London shows the force of strong winds brought on by Storm Katie yesterday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Flights cancelled at Heathrow, power cut at thousands of homes

LONDON • Winds gusting to 170kmh an hour on Easter Monday forced the cancellation of over a hundred flights in and out of Britain and left thousands of homes without power.

"Storm Katie" left a trail of disruption in its wake as it swept across southern England overnight, leaving debris and roadwork barriers strewn across London's streets early yesterday, Agence France-Presse said.

Heathrow, one of the world's busiest airports, reported around 130 cancellations, with other flights delayed or diverted to other airports.

Passengers on board planes arriving at Gatwick Airport have described their "absolutely terrifying" experiences as pilots had to abandon landings at the last minute, BBC said.

A passenger on a flight from Budapest told BBC that his plane was "dropping suddenly and swinging left to right" before the pilot "suddenly aborted the landing".

Mr Dan Prance said some passengers "began being ill and sick" as a result, and that there was "a full round of applause and people crying" when the plane finally landed in Birmingham.

Another passenger Arnon Woolfson, whose plane was also diverted to Birmingham, described his flight as "pretty hairy" as the plane was "not just going up and down, it was going sideways" during an attempted landing in Gatwick.

BBC said planes diverted from Gatwick, which had all been due to land after midnight, were also sent to Liverpool, Manchester, Stansted and East Midlands.

Singapore Airlines said its Flight SQ322, which had 28 crew on board and was operating between Singapore and London on Sunday, was diverted to Manchester as a result of strong winds.

The aircraft arrived in Manchester at 7.38am (Manchester time) yesterday, and departed for London at 9.50am on the same day, said a spokesman for the airline, which operates 28 weekly flights from Singapore to London.

The flight was estimated to arrive in London at 10.44am (London time) yesterday.

The spokesman said that the 323 passengers on board did not disembark, but were served refreshments on board the aircraft after arriving in Manchester.

Arrangements will also be made to re-book affected passengers on alternative flights upon their arrival in London, added the spokesman.

BBC reported that more than 100,000 homes were left without power at the height of the winds, and that thousands were still awaiting reconnection.

Following heavy rain, the Environment Agency issued 27 flood warnings and 150 alerts in response to what it said were "rapidly rising" river levels in the wake of the storm, BBC reported.

Agence France-Presse said the Met Office national weather service issued an amber warning for winds in London and south-east England, advising people to be "prepared for disruption to outdoor activities and travel".

The service recorded gusts of 169kmh off the southern coast of England, with winds of over 112kmh registered across the south.

A bridge crossing the River Thames in south-east England and the Severn Bridge which connects England and Wales were also closed, said Highways England.

"It is particularly the southern parts of England bearing the brunt of Storm Katie, but also parts of East Anglia as well, with these potentially damaging and disruptive gusts of wind of 60 to 70 miles per hour (96 to 112kmh) - but possibly more in the most exposed areas," said BBC weather forecaster Nick Miller.

The storm left the British mainland yesterday morning, moving over the southern North Sea, where rigs and ships were hit by 96kmh winds, BBC Weather said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 29, 2016, with the headline 'Storm Katie wreaks travel chaos in Britain'. Print Edition | Subscribe