LONDON — Fierce gales lashed southern England today, blacking out most of London, knocking down buildings and trees and closing the world's busiest ferry port. At least 13 people were killed.
The London Weather Center said pre-dawn winds in London gusted to 94 m.p.h.--the strongest ever recorded in the capital. Fallen trees blocked roads and halted most commuter trains.
Police in Sussex County said the Queen's Hotel in Hastings on the south English coast was blown down "like a deck of cards." They said one man who was trapped in the rubble died and his wife and another guest were injured when the hotel collapsed.
Described as 'Like a War'
London taxi driver Pat Tinlin said driving was "like an assault course. Trees were down all over the place. Rubbish bins were flying about. It was devastation, like a war."
Dover, the world's busiest passenger ferry port, closed for the first time in decades.
"We forecast strong winds overnight, but nobody thought it would be anything . . . as bad as this," said a weather spokesman.
He said the southwesterly air stream formed a depression in the mid-Atlantic "and just got deeper and deeper."
The winds reached 115 m.p.h. in some places. The tempest had subsided by mid-morning as the winds moved off toward the North Sea.
The Coast Guard at Yarmouth said a 10,000-ton diving vessel lost power and steering in the North Sea and came dangerously close to colliding with two oil rigs.
The vessel temporarily ran aground in hurricane-force winds, damaging its forward engines and rudder.
Mike Bream, a spokesman for the state-run Central Electricity Generating Board, said most of London and the southern counties of Kent, Sussex and Surrey were hit by the power blackout.
Street lights and office lights kept on overnight in central London suddenly went out at 4:20 a.m. Power was restored in parts of London about three hours later, but Bream said restoring power in other areas was "going to be a very big uphill battle."
Killed by Falling Trees
One man died at Petersfield, 50 miles southwest of London, when a falling tree hit his car. A 50-year-old woman was killed in the southeast county of Kent when a tree crashed through the roof of her house and a motorist in the same county died when his car hit a tree.
A motorcyclist died after a gust of wind swept him into a highway divider in Liverpool and a sleeping vagrant died when bricks fell on him in London. An elderly man died trying to protect his home near Brighton.
Two fireman answering an emergency call were killed at Highcliffe in southwest England when a tree crashed on their fire engine.
A woman died at Windsor west of London when she was hit by a falling chimney and a man was killed when his car and a truck were blown onto a collision course.
Business in the City, London's financial district, was badly disrupted because power failures knocked out computers and telephones and many workers were unable to make their way into Central London.