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Four killed as Storm Eunice batters UK

The O2, which was previously known as the Millennium Dome, in London was damaged by Storm Eunice this morning

At least four people have been killed by falling trees and debris as Storm Eunice continues to batter the UK with winds of up to 122mph – causing widespread damage and travel chaos for millions across the country.

A man in his 50s died in Netherton, Merseyside, after debris struck the windscreen of a vehicle he was travelling in, Merseyside Police said, making him the fourth known victim of the storm.

Damage to the roof of the O2 Arena – known as the Millennium Dome when it opened in 2000 – in South East London today

The unnamed man was pronounced dead at the scene while the driver of the vehicle was not injured. The family has been informed.

It comes after the third victim was confirmed tonight as a woman in her 30s, who was crushed by a tree at around 4pm Friday while being driven in car by a man, also in his 30s, on Muswell Hill Road in Haringey, north London.

Metropolitan Police said the driver was taken to hospital, where his condition is not believed to be life-threatening.

A man in his early 60s became the first known victim when he was killed by a falling tree in County Wexford in the Republic of Ireland while out working to clear trees.

Two large trees come down in high winds at Spencer Park in Battersea, South West London, today

The second victim, a motorist, is believed to have been killed when a large tree fell and crushed a vehicle in the market town of Alton, Hampshire, this afternoon.

More than 165,000 Britons were left without power on Friday after England was hit by the strongest winds on record which saw the roof of The O2 ripped apart, lorries blown over and trees felled amid travel chaos.

The top speed of 122mph at Needles on the Isle of Wight today is provisionally the highest gust ever in England and means Storm Eunice is now worse than the 1987 Great Storm when gusts peaked at 115mph in West Sussex.

Waves hit Porthleven on the Cornish coast this morning as Storm Eunice makes landfall in the South West

Today’s red warnings ended at 12pm in the South West and 3pm in the South East, but forecasters continue to be concerned over ‘flying debris resulting in danger to life’ as well as ‘roofs blown off and power lines brought down’. An amber warning for gusts up to 80mph covers the whole of England until 9pm tonight having started at 5am.

Hundreds of schools were closed, all trains in Wales were suspended and rail passengers across England were told not to travel amid mass cancellations as the Army was on standby and the Government held a Cobra meeting. In addition, UK Power Networks said a total of around 168,000 customers across Britain were without power today.

People walk at the sea front during Storm Eunice in Brighton, East Sussex, this afternoon

Large parts of the white covering on The O2 in London’s Greenwich could be seen flapping in the strong winds today. Witness Mala Sharma said ‘more and more parts are getting ripped off’, adding ‘it’s going to be a safety issue for people around’. Ms Sharma said it happened ‘right in front of my eyes’ and that the damage ‘started off with a patch’ but then a ‘chunk’ of the roof on the building, formerly known as the Millennium Dome, ripped off.

Around 1,000 people were evacuated. London Fire Brigade Station Commander Chris Kamara said: ‘Firefighters cordoned off the area to ensure no one was injured by any further falling debris. There has been no actual collapse or structural damage to the building, but due to the nature of the canvas material which covers The O2, it has come loose in high winds and looks quite dramatic. Crews have made the scene safe and The O2 is now closed.’

The de Havilland Venom plane which has been blown down in Wantage, Oxfordshire, as Storm Eunice hits the South today

An O2 spokesman said: ‘There has been some damage caused to the tent fabric in our roof at The O2. The affected areas have been cleared and The O2 will remain closed for the rest of the day. The safety of our visitors remains of paramount importance, and we will continue to assess the ongoing situation and act accordingly.’

London Fire Brigade declared a major incident – saying it was prioritising calls where there was a risk to life, after taking 550 calls between 10.30am and 1pm which was more than the average normally taken in a 24-hour period.

Two lorries were blown over on the M4 in South Wales and the storm took down a huge tree in Bude, Cornwall, which fell onto a park. In Wells, Somerset, the tip of a church spire crashed down the side of St Thomas Church.

British Airways cancelled more than 130 flights at London Heathrow and City airports, motorists were warned only to make essential journeys and major attractions closed including the London Eye, Kew Gardens and Legoland.

Aviation analytics firm Cirium said at least 436 flights to, from or within the UK were cancelled today. The highest proportion was at Heathrow, where 20 per cent of flights were cancelled – followed by London City (16 per cent). Passengers also reported long waits at Heathrow for the winds to die down so bag hatches could be opened.

Network Rail said all of London’s main train stations will likely temporarily suspend all services for a few hours this afternoon, with Waterloo having already stopped all services due to the large number of trees on the tracks.

Rail operators including c2c in Essex and Southeastern in Kent cancelled all services, the M4 and M48 Severn crossings were both closed and Royal Mail suspended deliveries and closed delivery offices in all red areas.

The M2 Medway Bridge in Kent was closed in both directions between Rochester and Maidstone due to strong winds, and the M40 near Northampton was closed between junctions 10 and 11 due to an overturned lorry.

Meanwhile more than 200,000 people tuned in to a YouTube channel livestreaming aircraft attempting to land at London Heathrow Airport. Big Jet TV captured the moment many of the jets made multiple attempts to land. One plane from Chicago had three tries before going to Geneva. And a British Airways service from Edinburgh to Heathrow got all the way to London before turning back and returning to Scotland. Also today a TAP Air Portugal flight from Athens was filmed making contact with the runway before the pilot lost his nerve and taking off again.

Passengers on easyJet flight EJU8014 from Bordeaux to London Gatwick endured two aborted landings before the plane was put in a holding pattern over the south coast and then forced to return to the French city. At Gatwick there were 15 cancellations and 67 delayed flights. British Airways, which said it was suffering from ‘significant disruption, said the rate of aircraft permitted to land at Heathrow was ‘being reduced due to gale force winds’.

Some 50,000 homes in the South West were without power, while parks across London were closed and taped off – and police were seen ordering a dog walker to leave Primrose Hill in the capital immediately. The man involved, film producer David Broder, 57, told MailOnline: ‘I saw two police vehicles and then was approached by a police officer who came running towards me shouting, ‘Get out the park now’, which I thought, ‘he’s a bit over excited’.

‘The police officer then informed me that the park is now closed and I have to leave. I thought I’ll get into the park, obviously 10am is the time (the red warning begins), my dog walker’s cancelled today, so I thought I’ll just do a quick half an hour as I do most days anyway.’ When asked whether he saw anyone else being told to leave, he said: ‘Yes. This was ridiculous, as I just wanted to take my dog out for half an hour or so before the storm sets in.’

Gusts of up to 77mph were recorded at Langdon Bay near Dover in Kent, while Heathrow Airport on the outskirts of West London has seen wind speeds reach 70mph and at Tibenham Airfield near Norwich they have hit 67mph.

All outpatient appointments were cancelled at Royal Cornwall Hospital today ‘to keep people safe’. In addition, Universities, National Trust sites and other tourist venues including Kensington Palace also shut today, and London Mayor Sadiq Khan said: ‘Please stay at home, do not take risks and do not travel unless absolutely essential.’

Transport for London part-suspended train services on five Underground lines, the Docklands Light Railway and Overground. It urged people to avoid non-essential travel, while the Environment Agency told Britons to avoid travelling to the coast for dramatic photographs – saying it was ‘probably the most stupid thing you can do’.

The Government’s Cobra civil contingencies committee will meet this afternoon to discuss the response to the storm for the second time in two days, with the meeting again chaired by Cabinet Office minister Michael Ellis.

Network Rail urged customers to avoid travelling, with many services either cancelled or delayed, and trains running at 50mph due to the increased risk of having to brake for debris on the track. Major roads including the A66 cross-Pennine route and the M8 between Edinburgh and Glasgow were partially closed due to high winds.

National Rail said seven train operators have now suspended all services today – those being c2c, Chiltern Railways, Great Western Railway, Greater Anglia, South Western Railway, Southeastern and Transport for Wales.

The Met Office issued the first red warning for the South West at 11am yesterday, 20 hours in advance, before issuing the second for the South East at 4am today – just six hours before the ‘extremely strong winds’ began.

The South West warning covers coastline of Devon, Cornwall and Somerset as well as South Wales due to the combination of high tides, strong winds and storm surge – while the second is over most of South East England.

One dramatic video showed pilots battling to land in extreme crosswinds at Birmingham Airport this morning, with a Vueling plane from Paris violently rocking from side to side as it approached the runway in 60mph winds.

The Met Office had warned that the phenomenon known as a ‘sting jet’ – a small area of highly intense wind inside a storm – could form, similar to the 1987 Great Storm. However forecasters later said this would not be the case.

Forecasters today urged Britons to work from home in the worst affected areas – with the centre of the storm expected to be up the Bristol Channel and around the narrowing of the River Severn in Gloucestershire.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted today: ‘The Met Office has issued a red weather warning for much of the UK. We should all follow the advice and take precautions to keep safe. I thank responders for all their efforts.’

Meanwhile in a string of weather-related developments:

* Most schools across the worst hit regions in the South West and Wales announced they will shut today;
* Major UK attractions including Windsor Castle, London Zoo and Chessington World of Adventures closed;
* Windsor Great Park, Richmond, Bushy and Greenwich Parks in London all said they would shut to the public;
* Network Rail warned disruption was ‘inevitable’ with airports advising people to check flights with airlines;
* People were urged not to take dangerous ‘storm selfies’ with huge waves expected along the south coast;
* The Environment Agency issued 10 severe flood warnings, 31 normal flood warnings and 102 flood alerts;
* In some areas, refuse collections were cancelled and residents warned to ‘tie down’ bins in the back garden;
* Pet owners were warned to take extra precautions to keep their animals safe during the storm.