Unhappy Christmas for many as storms leave homes in darkness

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Thousands faced a miserable Christmas Day in the wake of the stormy weather, either evacuated from their homes or left without power.

It followed 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 were still without power yesterday morning, the Energy Networks Association said.

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

The Environment Agency had three severe warnings in place in the South East and South West – the highest level of alert, which meant there was 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).

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 yesterday morning, mainly in the South East, the South West and the Midlands. A further 218 flood alerts were also in place.

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.

Kirk Waite, a forecaster at the Met Office, said conditions would start to become be “much quieter” weather-wise.

Mr Waite said a storm coming tomorrow is not expected to be as severe as ones 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 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’’, near Shrewsbury, Shropshire, 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 had to battle through treacherous conditions on the roads and suffered major delays as the rail network was brought to its knees.

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