Saturday 19 April 2014

Christmas misery for storm victims in the UK

Flooding in Mallards Way, Maidstone, Kent. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday December 24, 2013. Britain's bleak midwinter continued today with strong winds, floods and fallen trees causing chaos to travellers trying to get away for Christmas. Many rail services were disrupted, with some companies unable to run any trains at all, while a power outage at Gatwick airport's north terminal added to flight problems. On the roads, many major routes were flooded or blocked by fallen trees, with Kent, Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex and Cornwall among the affected counties. See PA story WEATHER Christmas. Photo credit should read: David Cowan/PA Wire
Flooding in Mallards Way, Maidstone, Kent. Strong winds, floods and fallen trees caused chaos to travellers trying to get away for Christmas. Credit: David Cowan/PA Wire

Many people are facing a miserable Christmas Day in the wake of the stormy weather with thousands either evacuated from their homes or left without power.

This comes after a number of deaths, thought to be related to the bad weather, in the days running up to Christmas.

Fifty thousand homes across the UK are still without power this morning, the Energy Networks Association said.

With many families' turkey dinner ruined, major power company UK Power Networks is offering to pay for Christmas meals in local pubs or restaurants for people whose supplies remain cut off.

The Environment Agency has three severe warnings in place in the South East and South West - the highest level of alert, which means there is a danger to life.

Firefighters broke their strike in parts of England because of the storms.

Members of the Fire Brigades Union in Surrey and Kent were recalled to duty under the terms of an agreement between the union, the employers and the Government.

In the early hours, around 90 people were evacuated from their homes on the River Stour near Bournemouth. Police began to evacuate residents of the Ilford Bridge Home Park shortly after 3am following a severe flood warning from the Environment Agency (EA).

They were taken to the Boscombe Day Centre in Owl Road, Boscombe, Dorset Police said.

People were also evacuated from the Beaulieu Garden Park Home in Christchurch, Dorset.

The Coastguard joined Kent Fire and Rescue Service to rescue people from the Little Venice Caravan and Marina Park in Yalding after rising waters from the River Medway cut them off.

By 8pm the water was chest-deep, the Coastguard said, and a helicopter was brought in as a precaution while the last 21 people were led to safety from rising flood waters and listing caravans.

The EA had 126 flood warnings across England and Wales this morning, mainly in the South East, the South West and the Midlands. A further 218 flood alerts were also in place, with 90 in the South East alone.

The EA said that by last night 150 properties had been flooded in England, mainly in the south and focused in Surrey and Kent.

In Surrey residents were evacuated from their homes in Dorking, Leatherhead and Guildford, while more evacuations occurred in Tonbridge, Kent.

Some 40 properties were evacuated in Godalming because of concerns over the height of the River Wey, Surrey Police said, and a rest centre was set up for residents.

Kirk Waite, a forecaster at the Met Office, said today would be "much quieter" weather-wise.

He said: "We do have a few showers around and they could be heavy at times, and some of them might bring more hail, which will give a whiteness to things."

Mr Waite said the storm coming on Friday is not expected to be as severe as we have already had.

He did say there would be quite heavy amounts of rain, which would bring "additional problems" to the places already dealing with floods.

Tragedy has struck in the run-up to Christmas Day, with the bad weather thought to have contributed to a number of deaths.

On December 23, a man's body was pulled from the River Rothay in Ambleside, Cumbria.

The 48-year-old, from the Hest Bank area of Lancaster, was swept away by the fast-moving water after he and his dog were spotted in the river at 2.25pm.

A woman also died in a river in Gwynedd, North Wales.

Another woman died and a man was seriously hurt in a car crash which happened in ''difficult weather conditions'', West Midlands Ambulance Service said

The woman died in the crash near Shrewsbury, Shropshire, which happened just after 9.30pm on Monday.

A man died in a multiple-vehicle crash near Bodmin in Cornwall on Sunday night.

Travellers trying to get home on Christmas Eve fought treacherous conditions on the roads and suffered major delays as the rail network was brought to its knees.

There was chaos at Gatwick Airport in West Sussex after a power cut at the North Terminal led to cancellations and delays, leaving thousands of passengers stranded. The airport said last night that normal service would resume today.

Airline easyJet said it would be operating a limited number of flights from Gatwick Airport today to replace ones that should have operated yesterday.

EasyJet said it would be unable to schedule any further flights today because of limited capacity at airports and crew availability.

The flooding will leave Christmas cancelled for many people. Gary Button, manager of the Old Mill Hotel in Batheaston near Bath, told the BBC he had to cancel more than 50 Christmas dinners after the River Avon flooded the property.

Press Association

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