Five dead, thousands stranded as wild storms lash Britain

The Christmas getaway has 'ground to a halt' after storms disrupt rail, sea and air services

LAST UPDATED AT 09:37 ON Tue 24 Dec 2013

THREE more people died yesterday as gale-force winds and torrential rain lashed the UK, bringing to five the number who have died since the storms began on Sunday.  
The storms have caused major disruption to rail, air and sea services and the Christmas getaway has effectively “ground to a halt”, the Daily Mirror reports.

A 48-year-old man’s body was found in the swollen River Rothay in Cumbria yesterday. Hours later a woman’s body was found in a fast-flowing stream in Gwynedd, north-west Wales. A spokesman for Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue team said: "It seems the woman had gone out to check the water supply to her house.

In Shropshire, a woman died and a man was seriously hurt in a car crash yesterday which happened in “difficult weather conditions”, The Independent reports.  

This morning the Environment Agency has some 258 flood alerts and 104 severe flood warnings in place, about 80 of which were in the south west and south east of England.

Meanwhile, thousands of people are having to revise their Christmas travel plans today as engineers struggle to clear fallen trees and other debris from train tracks. Southern Rail suspended services on all routes this morning and there are reports of major disruption on First Capital Connect and South West Trains.

A spokesman for the South West Trains-Network Rail Alliance said: "The past 24 hours have been very difficult for our customers and we are sorry they have faced significant disruption."

Passengers already embarked on journeys were left stranded by the bad weather. About 900 passengers were stuck on the Spirit of Britain ferry outside Dover for some 14 hours as it was considered too dangerous to enter Dover harbour, Sky News reports. There were reports of rail passengers being stranded on stationary trains for extended periods.

Two power substations were flooded at Gatwick airport, crippling check-in facilities at the North Terminal and causing extended delays. In addition, rail services to both Gatwick and Stansted have been suspended.

The good news is that the weather is expected to improve, temporarily at least. Christmas Day is expected to be calmer with just a few wintry showers in the north and west, reports Sky News. Boxing Day looks mainly fine.

The stormy conditions are expected to return on Friday. · 

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Environment Agency Flood Defence Assets - Manipulation of Figures - Are they fit for purpose? EA Whistleblower blog explains at Inside the Environment Agency

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