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Winds reaching 106 mph buffet Britain

LONDON -- Hurricane-force winds reaching up to 106 mph and heavy rainstorms battered parts of Britain on Sunday, disrupting train services and stranding drivers in floodwaters.

The Isle of Wight saw Storm Bella's strongest gusts hit 106 mph, while parts of the south coast of England and north Wales also saw gusts of around 80 mph. Flooding on the tracks caused train cancellations and delays in southern England, and a main train line into London was blocked by a fallen tree.

In Wales, Western Power said the storm caused power cuts for 21,000 homes. Most of the services were restored Sunday but 1,700 homes still had no power supply.

Some 1,000 people had to be evacuated from a flooded caravan park in Northampton on Christmas Day as heavy rain flooded the site. Severe flood warnings indicating a potential threat to life remain in the area.

Across the Channel, nearly all of France was under storm warning Sunday, with winds up to 90 mph registered at the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris and heavy rains and gusts lashing the Atlantic coast, according to the national weather service and utility services. The storms have knocked out electricity for at least 12,000 homes in Brittany, Normandy and other northern French regions.

Detained ally of Putin critic released

MOSCOW -- A top associate of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was released from detention Sunday and said she was charged with trespassing after ringing the doorbell of an alleged security operative who inadvertently revealed details of Navalny's supposed poisoning with a Soviet-era nerve agent.

Lyubov Sobol, a key figure in Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation, was detained for 48 hours on Friday after a day of interrogation. The move followed Sobol's attempt earlier last week to reach the alleged operative in his Moscow apartment whom Navalny had previously duped into revealing details of his alleged poisoning.

Sobol and her allies denied the accusations and maintained that she violated no law by ringing the doorbell to the apartment. While Sobol was being questioned, the state Investigative Committee issued a statement accusing her of violent trespassing -- criminal charges that carry a sentence of up to two years in prison.

Shortly after her release from detention Sunday, Sobol told reporters she has been formally charged and insisted the case against her was "revenge" on Navalny.

Last week, Navalny, a leading critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, released the recording of a phone call he said he made to a man he identified as Konstantin Kudryavtsev and described as an alleged member of a group of officers of the Federal Security Service who purportedly poisoned him with the Soviet-era Novichok agent in August and then tried to cover it up.

37 people die in Cameroon bus crash

YAOUNDE, Cameroon -- At least 37 people are dead and 18 others seriously injured after a bus crash in Cameroon's western village of Nemale, officials said.

A 70-seater bus was on its way to the capital, Yaounde, from the western town of Foumban when it crashed into a truck while trying to avoid people on the road about 2 a.m. Sunday, said Absalom Monono Woloa, a senior government official in the area.

"Most of the travelers were either going to spend New Year's Day with their families, returning from Christmas Day festivities or were business people supplying gifts for New Year's feasts," he said.

Village residents ran to the road to help the more than 60 commuters who were on the bus, he said.

The death toll will likely rise as rescue workers dig through the wreckage, he said.

13 more protesters arrested in Belarus

KYIV, Ukraine -- A human-rights group said that 13 people were detained in Belarus on Sunday during weekend protests against President Alexander Lukashenko, who won his sixth term in office in a disputed election.

Local media reported that groups of people took part in small rallies scattered around Minsk, the capital, and in other Belarusian cities. Videos of the protests posted by independent news outlets showed protesters with red and white flags marching through courtyards in residential areas of Minsk and chanting "Long live Belarus!" and "As long as we're united, we're invincible."

The Viasna human rights center released names of 10 people who have been detained in Minsk and three more in other Belarusian cities.

The opposition's Coordination Council, formed shortly after the election to push for a transition of power, issued a statement on Sunday thanking Belarusians for taking to the streets again during the last weekend of 2020.

"The Coordination Council is grateful to brave Belarusians that don't stop despite intimidation and trumped-up accusations in order to draw nearer a life in Belarus that we dream of and deserve," the statement read. "We know that Belarusians are going into the new year with a common dream and [we] are convinced that we can't be stopped along the way."

-- Compiled by Democrat-Gazette staff from wire reports

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