UK storms: Man dies amid 'almost unparalleled natural crisis'

The BBC's Hywel Griffith: "Britain's wild winter just seems to rage on"

A man has died apparently trying to clear a fallen tree as hurricane-force winds batter parts of the UK.

The dead man, believed to be in his 70s, was killed after the tree brought down power cables in Wiltshire.

Gusts of over 100mph were recorded as Met Office "red warnings", the first of the winter, were issued. Sixteen severe flood warnings remain in place.

Power and transport networks have been badly hit, in what has been called an "almost unparalleled natural crisis".

Residents in many parts of the UK have been warned not to go out.

Severe flooding

Wiltshire Police say the dead man was killed in a suspected electrocution in Bremhill, a village between Calne and Chippenham, on Wednesday afternoon.

A caravan was blown over by the strong winds in Aberystwyth A caravan was blown over by the strong winds in Aberystwyth
A man struggles to control his umbrella in Windsor, Berkshire Strong winds have been sweeping through swathes of the UK

Severe flood warnings remain for Berkshire, Surrey and Somerset, which have already been hit by severe flooding, with hundreds of homes evacuated.

Surrey Fire & Rescue said it had rescued 250 people from the floods on Wednesday.

A total of 850 people have been rescued in the county since Sunday.

112mph gust

As of 21:00 GMT on Wednesday, about 115,000 homes in parts of England and Wales were still without power.

The figure included about 52,000 in mid and north Wales, and 23,000 in south Wales.

About 13,000 homes in the West Midlands were still without power while 10,000 homes in Cheshire, 2,500 homes in the Wirral and 5,500 homes in north Shropshire were without power.

Some 3,000 homes in south-west England remained without power.

Phil Davies, network service manager for Western Power, said his engineers were facing the most difficult conditions they had ever seen.

England and Wales flood warning map from Environment Agency

The Met Office said a wind gust of 112mph was recorded at Great Dun Fell, in the Pennines - the strongest wind gust on land of the recent storms.

Gusts of 92mph were recorded at Mumbles Head, South Wales. Winds of 96mph winds were recorded at the Needles, off the Isle of Wight.

'Complete accident'

A train travelling from London's King's Cross to Edinburgh, which became stranded on the North York moors between Darlington and North Allerton, started moving again at about 00:45 GMT, East Coast has said.

The train, which set off from London at 18:30 GMT, was being hauled to Edinburgh by another locomotive, spokesman Nick Wood added.

Weather information

Firefighters drive in a special vehicle through flooding in Wraysbury, Berkshire

He said taxis would take passengers home when they arrived at their stations.

"Obviously we appreciate it's hardly ideal for all of our passengers being stuck on board and appreciate all their patience."

He said Network Rail engineers were hoping to fix the problem overnight so that services could run as close to normal as possible on Thursday morning.

Passenger Carol Machin told BBC Radio 5 live earlier: "There's electrical line here, there and everywhere.

"It's just frustrating because the weather's shocking and you just want to get home at this time of night when you've come from London - it's a long journey."

Stranded passengers

Electric power cables and trees have been brought down by winds of up to 94mph, blocking roads in Devon and Cornwall.

A section of the west coast main line in Lancashire was closed between 19:00 and 21:00 GMT, while the M6 at Thelwall Viaduct was closed in both directions between junctions 20 and 21. The M62 was also shut both ways between junction 22 and 23.

At Crewe railway station about 500 passengers were evacuated and taken to a nearby hotel after roof panels fell on to overhead lines and caused a fire, leaving trains stranded outside the station.

Becky Kelly, a BBC producer who was on one of the halted trains, said: "I was stuck on a train going to Liverpool and we were told very quickly to evacuate and we were rushed off the train and rushed outside the station. Then fire and police arrived.

Peter Gibbs has the latest weather update

"We were told overhead power cables had gone on fire."

The station was later opened to allow stranded passengers to get off their trains.

West Country rail services have been severely affected by the severe flooding, while services in Oxfordshire, Hampshire, Sussex, Kent and Surrey have been heavily disrupted.

Virgin Trains has advised all passengers not to attempt travel and there are major disruptions for other rail services, with severe delays between Reading and London due to flooding near Maidenhead. Most of Virgin's west coast main line services were suspended.

Soldiers from the Royal Engineers help residents through a flooded road in Egham Further evacuations have been carried out in Egham, Surrey
Residents in Egham make their way through a flooded street Residents in Egham make their way through a flooded street
Waves break over Porthcawl harbour, south Wales High waves crash over Porthcawl harbour, in South Wales
Two people struggle to make their way along the Esplanade, in Porthcawl, South Wales Gusts of wind of more than 100mph have hit part of the Welsh coast

The rare Met Office red warnings, of wind posing a "risk to life", expired at 21:00 GMT. Before Wednesday, the last red warning was issued in January 2013 as heavy snow hit Wales; before that, a red warning of wind was issued in January 2012 in Scotland.

Meanwhile, motorists have been advised to avoid the A9 in Scotland after several stretches were affected by snow and ice.

The road was closed at Dalwhinnie after an accident between a van and a lorry, with emergency services also dealing with a number of other incidents.

Other updates include:

Analysis

Is this an unprecedented crisis? It depends how you measure it.

Certainly the rainfall in January across southern England is unprecedented in records stretching back to 1766. The soaking January was preceded by a wet December and followed by the start of a wet February. Storm has followed relentless storm in a way that makes the Met Office suspect manmade climate change is at play.

The rains have soaked the rocks and levels of water in boreholes are unprecedented as is the duration of the flooding, especially on the Somerset Levels.

But in terms of damage to life and property, well these floods are by no means unprecedented.

The Environment Agency says 5,800 properties are flooded since the start of December. A handful of people has died from weather-related incidents.

Compare that with 2007 when 55,000 homes were flooded. Or 1946-47 when 100,000 properties were inundated as snow melted.

Or 1607, when more than 2,000 people died when a storm swept up the Bristol Channel.

The comparisons aren't completely accurate because flood defences have increased over the years.

The Environment Agency says for instance that they have defended 1.3 million homes that otherwise would have been flooded this year.

Follow Roger on Twitter @rharrabin

  • PM David Cameron repeated his pledge that "money is no object in this relief effort" as he unveiled a package of measures to help businesses and homeowners
  • The River Severn reached a new record level of 5.65m in Worcester
  • The QEII bridge at the Dartford crossing in Kent was earlier closed due to high winds
  • About 30 roads were closed in Shropshire due to fallen trees and floods
  • A tree fell between junction 15 and 16 on the M6 - no-one was injured
  • Greater Manchester Fire service asked all officers off work to come in to respond to the high number of calls
  • The Environment Agency warns more homes will be flooded as rivers in Herefordshire and Worcestershire continue rising
  • The Thames is set to rise to its highest levels for more than 60 years, said the agency, with Windsor, Maidenhead and Surrey the worst affected
  • The latest maps showing how the UK is being affected can be found here
  • Manchester City's Barclays Premier League clash with Sunderland was postponed owing to "unsafe" conditions
  • Everton's match with Crystal Palace was also called off, just 35 minutes before kick-off, due to "building damage which has led to safety concerns"
  • All Blackpool trams have been cancelled following concerns about overhead power cables

As well as 16 severe flood warnings, the Environment Agency has also issued about 400 less serious flood warnings and alerts, mostly in southern England and the Midlands.

Thames Valley flooding

1,135

homes flooded since 29 January

  • 2,500 homes at risk

  • 30,000 sandbags distributed

    Nation-wide

  • 5,800 homes flooded since Dec

  • £630m economic damage

AP

Are you in the affected areas? Have you been affected by the flooding? Email us at haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk.

More on This Story

UK Winter Storms

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More UK stories

RSS

Features

  • NS Savannah, 1962Nuclear dream

    The ship that totally failed to change the world


  • Ed Miliband takes a selfie at a Cambridge hairdressersNo more photo ops?

    Why is Ed Miliband drawing attention to his public image?


  • Espresso cup7 days quiz

    Which city serves the strongest cup of coffee?


  • Glasgow 2014 quaichs and medalsQuaich guide

    What do the Scottish gifts given to Games medallists symbolise?


  • Malaysian plane wreckage in UkraineFlight risk

    How odd is it for three planes to crash in eight days?


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.