Six killed in fierce Western Europe storms

LONDON - Whipping winds and heavy rain pounded much of Western Europe on Monday, flooding villages, damaging buildings and prompting officials in some places to cancel flights. At least six people were killed.

While deep snow and winds as strong as 159 mph roared through mountainous Switzerland, Britain was being buffeted by rain. Three rivers had overflowed in southern England by Monday afternoon, and two people died when their car was struck by a falling tree.

Police and emergency teams across England were kept busy fortifying flood defenses and evacuating dozens of elderly people from homes inundated by up to 2 feet of water.

In the northern city of York, one of the hardest hit by the floods, the River Ouse was receding from its Saturday peak, but police feared the new rain could cause it to rise again and topple waterlogged fortifications.

''We are very concerned about the state of the flood defenses. They have been under pressure now for a good week at levels not seen here for 400 years,'' Chief Superintendent Gary Barnett said.

In Ireland, a 68-year-old woman died Monday after being hit by a gate in heavy winds while working on her farm.

In France, heavy rains caused flooding along the Mediterranean coast Monday. In Nice, on the famed Cote d'Azur, a 60-year-old man was killed after being carried away by a mudslide. In Gap, also in the southeast, a 34-year-old man was killed by a mudslide while pushing a car up a hill. In Soorts-Hossegor, in the southwest, a 41-year-old woman died when a tree fell on her car.

Roads were cut off, schools and villas evacuated and road and rail transport was severely disrupted across southern France. Transportation links with Italy were cut and some flights into and out of Nice were canceled.

No fatalities were reported in Switzerland despite winds that reached enormous velocities. The winds damaged buildings and knocked over electrical pylons and trees, while heavy snow halted traffic through the Swiss Alps, officials said.

In the southern Swiss state of Valais, the wind made so much noise that earthquake-measuring equipment falsely indicated that there had been a tremor of magnitude 3.7, officials said.

In Spain, meanwhile, gusty winds and heavy rain cut off roads and prompted airports to delay or cancel flights. No one was reported injured, but 14 of Spain's 17 regions were placed on alert, the Civil Protection Office said.

The National Weather Service forecast strong winds in most of Spain, with gusts reaching 60 mph in northern regions such as the Basque country, the news agency Efe said. Fishing fleets in Galicia and elsewhere in Spain remained in port because of rough seas.


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