Four die as storm hits southern UK

  • Published
Media caption,

Footage from across the south shows the storm's impact, as Robert Hall reports

Four people have died after a storm battered southern Britain, leading to 625,000 homes losing power, and major rush-hour disruption to commuters.

A teenager in Kent and a man in Watford were killed by falling trees.

A man and a woman died in west London after a falling tree caused a suspected gas explosion and a house to collapse.

Many rail companies suspended morning services before running reduced services later. They say operations should be back to normal on Tuesday.

Flights and ferry crossing were also affected as the storm moved across Britain.

BBC forecasters say the storm, which began on Sunday night and saw heavy rain fall across many areas and wind speeds of more than 70mph (112 km/h), moved out of the UK shortly after 12:00 GMT - leaving a "broadly windy day" behind.

The strongest gust of 99mph during the storm was recorded at Needles Old Battery, Isle of Wight, at 05:00 GMT.

Wind speeds of 115mph were recorded during the so-called Great Storm of October 1987.

Image caption,
Bethany Freeman was staying in a caravan next to her family home

Travel disruption includes:

Bethany Freeman, 17, suffered fatal injuries when the tree came down on the caravan she was sleeping in in Hever, near Edenbridge, Kent, at about 07:20 GMT.

The caravan was next to the house she lived in with her family and she had been sleeping there while renovations were carried out.

Donal Drohan, 51, from Harrow, was pronounced dead at the scene after a tree crushed a red Peugeot 307 at Lower High Street in Watford, Hertfordshire, at 6:50 GMT.

Mark Joseph, who was passing by before the emergency services arrived, said: "We tried to assist, trying to get the tree off, but it was impossible."

The man and woman who died in west London were found after three houses collapsed and two others were damaged following a suspected gas explosion after a tree fell during high winds in Hounslow, the London Fire Brigade said. Three people injured in the incident were taken to hospital.

Power restored

The Energy Networks Association, which represents power companies across the UK, confirmed 166,000 homes were still without power at 17:00 GMT.

A spokesman said 459,000 households that had lost power earlier had been reconnected, but more had been cut off as the storm moved north and eastwards.

BBC News correspondent Duncan Kennedy, reporting from Berkshire, said engineers had had trouble reaching some of the more remote areas in southern England because of fallen trees and it could be a few days before power supplies were restored to all locations.

Network Rail said the damage to infrastructure had been "worse than expected", with more than 100 trees on lines. Several hundred staff worked through Sunday night and into the morning to monitor conditions and react to damage.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of rail customer watchdog Passenger Focus, said it was "too early to tell if the industry made the right call when cancelling so many services, but the fact that major incidents have been avoided is good news".

Prime Minister David Cameron said the deaths caused by the storm were "hugely regrettable".

Asked whether train companies had over-reacted, he said: "These are difficult things to handle because you don't know for certain just how strong the storm will be."

Image caption,
Three houses collapsed and two others were damaged in a suspected gas explosion in west London
Image caption,
Bethany Freeman suffered fatal injuries when the tree crushed the caravan she was sleeping in
Image caption,
Passengers waited on the concourse at King's Cross station after train services were cancelled
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Workers have cleared the track at Alton in Hampshire, as this picture tweeted by South West Trains shows
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Hundreds of trees fell across the country

In the morning, London commuters on the Tube and London Overground services also experienced delays.

The Environment Agency had dozens of flood warnings in place - in areas of south-west England, East Anglia and the Midlands where flooding was expected - but the number fell during the day.

In other developments:

  • Four people died as the storm swept through France, Germany and the Netherlands
  • The search for the 14-year-old boy - who has been named as Dylan Alkins - who was swept away in Newhaven, East Sussex on Sunday has resumed
  • A double-decker bus rolled over in Suffolk, injuring the driver and several passengers. Witnesses told police the vehicle blew over at 08:00 GMT, rolling on to its side and coming to a stop in a field in Hadleigh
  • The Metropolitan Police says it received 792 calls to its 101 and 999 numbers between 06:00 and 08:00 GMT, compared with the 200 it would normally expect. The most common call was for "tree in road"
  • Police say 125 trees fell across Sussex including one on a taxi in Eastbourne, from which the driver climbed out uninjured
  • London Mayor Boris Johnson has chaired an emergency resilience meeting involving all emergency services and relevant agencies - and later made a statement thanking them for their work
  • Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg cancelled his monthly press conference after a crane collapsed on the roof of the Cabinet Office
Image caption,
The driver and a passenger were hurt when this bus blew over in Suffolk
Image caption,
A crane collapsed on the roof of the Cabinet Office in central London
Image caption,
The Environment Agency is warning of the risk of coastal flooding caused by strong winds and large waves in the wake of the storm
Image caption,
The weather has damaged construction work on the hangar at Bournemouth airport

BBC weather forecasters said in more populous areas including Lyneham, near Swindon; Yeovilton in Somerset and Hurn, near Bournemouth, speeds of 74-75mph (119-121km/h) had been recorded.

It has released figures showing the strongest winds and heaviest rainfall during the storm - with Otterbourne in Hampshire receiving 50mm of rain.

There is more information about forecasts on the BBC Weather, Met Office and Environment Agency websites. See BBC Travel News for up to date travel information and the Highways Agency and Traffic Wales websites for details about road conditions. BBC Local has information from your area.

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