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Fierce winds cause travel chaos

A driver has escaped with his life after his car was crushed by a tree brought down by fierce winds which have battered Britain and brought travel chaos.

The man was left with multiple injuries including a serious head wound but was cut from the mangled wreckage and taken to a nearby hospital after the incident in Birmingham earlier.

Elsewhere, yesterday, there was a heroic sea rescue after a man was saved from a sinking tug at the Esso refinery marine terminal at Fawley, Hampshire.

The Asterix tugboat had got into difficulties in the rough seas, blown up by the savage storm-force winds.

One person was seen to jump from the stricken boat and into the water but was quickly rescued and taken to the shore to be treated for hypothermia.

But an employee of Solent Towage, which owns the Asterix, spotted that a man remained in the vessel and jumped into the water to help rescue him.

A Cowes lifeboat spokesman said: "A Fawley emergency employee who was watching the capsized vessel from the pontoon then just glimpsed an arm in a small pocket of air behind a window.

"Without hesitation, the employee leapt into the water, smashed the window and extracted the trapped crew member."

A coastguard said that all crew in the incident, at around 7.15pm yesterday, had been accounted for.

There were winds up to 70mph overnight in parts of North Wales, the Bristol Channel and East Anglia and, with April beginning tomorrow, snow was forecast for higher ground in Scotland.

Fallen trees blocked railway lines, and busy road-bridge routes had to be closed, including the Dartford Crossing QEII Bridge on the M25, the Ouse Bridge on the M62, and the M48 Severn Bridge.

The high winds led to trains running at reduced speed in north west England, with delays of up to an hour in the Warrington Bank Quay/Oxenholme Lake District area and in the Carnforth area.

A tree on the line led to delays between Exeter St Davids in Devon and Taunton in Somerset, while another fallen tree meant hold-ups between Salisbury in Wiltshire and Romsey in Hampshire.

A tree on the line also caused delays to trains between Aylesbury and London.

In East Anglia, overhead wire problems between Diss and Stowmarket were causing delays of up to an hour to services between Norwich and Ipswich.

To add to commuters' problems, a signalling problem led to delays to trains between Brighton and Haywards Heath in Sussex.

There were long delays on the M5 southbound near Worcester due to an accident.

On the River Thames in London, a promotional event for the new Thunderbirds TV show was cancelled.

Met Office forecaster Kirk Waite said: "While the winds should gradually ease, it's going to stay a pretty windy day.

"The north west of the country is going to see some quite blustery showers moving in - it's probably going to see the strongest winds today."

While there may be a slight let-up, Mr Waite said the best that could be expected were "some sunny spells".

Looking forward to Easter, Mr Waite said the weekend will be breezy to begin with but things should "gradually quieten down".

The QEII Bridge was able to open later in the morning but there were long delays on the M25 in both directions.

There were also bad hold-ups on the M20 in Kent where the motorway was closed eastbound between junctions 2 and 4 west of Maidstone after a serious accident, which also led to the closure of a section of the M26.

On the railways, a signalling problem in west London caused delays to all services in and out of London's Paddington station, while the stormy weather led to speed restrictions, overhead wire problems and hold-ups on the East Coast Main Line.

The Diss-Stowmarket overhead wire problems in East Anglia were expected to last all day.

The Humber Bridge was closed completely after a lorry overturned in high winds.

Police had earlier closed the bridge to high-sided vehicles.

Humberside Police's road traffic unit tweeted: "*** HUMBER BRIDGE CLOSED IN BOTH DIRECTIONS *** please avoid the area and make alternative routes."

It later posted: "VERY WINDY ON THE BRIDGE !!! But recovery well under way !!!".

The Highways Agency tweeted: "#HumberBridge is now closed to ALL vehicles due to strong winds. Pls take an alternative route."

Drivers in the area reported widespread congestion caused by the closure, which was put in place after the lorry overturned close to one of the bridge's 150-metre high support towers.

Further upstream from the Humber Bridge, a carriageway of the M62 on the Ouse Bridge was also closed after a caravan was blown off a trailer.

Humberside Police said the motorway was closed between junctions 37 and 36 near Howden and was expected to remain shut for a number of hours.

Drivers caught in the congestion reported seeing the caravan on its side in a precarious position close to the edge of the bridge which spans the River Ouse.

Floodwater submerged cars and pushed one vehicle down a road in the West Yorkshire town of Ripponden, near Halifax.

Fire crews were called to Old Bank, in the town, just before midnight last night after a culvert became blocked in heavy rain.

A fire service spokesman said the fast-moving water was up to 3ft deep in places and plans were made to evacuate up to five houses, although residents were eventually allowed to stay in their homes.

The Port of Dover said tonight that sea conditions in the Channel were slight with a gentle north-westerly breeze.

A spokesman said: "The port is operating normally, however we are experiencing high volumes of freight traffic."

Passengers were advised to contact their shipping operator for further information, and to consult the Port of Dover website (www.doverport.co.uk) or Twitter account (@Port_of_Dover) for the latest port updates.

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