LONDON – Rescuers pulled two male bodies from rough seas off the coast of southeast England and military personnel mobilized to help build flood barriers Saturday as a second straight weekend of stormy weather wreaked havoc across Britain.
The fourth named storm of the season, dubbed Dennis by Britain's Met Office weather service, prompted widespread travel disruptions and had the potential to cause more damage than last weekend's Storm Ciara given the already saturated ground in much of the country.
The body of one man was pulled out of the sea by a lifeboat from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and followed a seven-hour search that involved a Royal Navy vessel. The search commenced before dawn after a distress call came from the B Gas Margrethe, a Maltese tanker that had been anchored off the coastal town of Margate. Police said they were trying to establish the man's identity.
In a separate incident, the body of a second man was pulled from the sea in the afternoon. Authorities said the death was not being treated as suspicious.
The Met Office had 68 flood warnings in place around England, which means flooding was expected over the weekend. Another 40 had been issued in Scotland and 10 in Wales by their environmental agencies.
The number of flood warnings have spiked sharply over Saturday, a clear sign that the storm is deepening heading into Sunday. The highest wind gust, according to the Met Office, was 87 mph in Capel Curig in north Wales.
Hundreds of flights were cancelled as a result of the high winds. Easyjet, for example, cancelled around 230 flights in and out of Britain as wind speeds were set to hit 70 mph (113 kph.).
Train services were also significantly disrupted. The travel chaos affected tens of thousands of passengers on what would typically be a busy travel day for British families since most schools are closed next week for mid-winter break.
Much of the concern about storm dangers focused on northern England, which suffered during Storm Ciara. At least eight people were killed across Europe during that storm.
On Saturday, around 75 British army personnel and 70 reservists were helping out stretched communities in the flood-hit Calder Valley region in West Yorkshire, constructing barriers and repairing damaged flood defenses.
“Our armed forces are always ready to support local authorities and communities whenever they need it," Britain's Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said. “The rapid response of the Army today will help with provision of flood relief to local communities in West Yorkshire.”