Two die as severe weather hits pre-Christmas travel

Media caption,
The BBC's Jon Kay reports on disrupted travel as strong winds batter the UK

Two people have died as storms sweep across the UK.

A man's body was pulled from the River Rothay in Cumbria by rescuers searching for a man who had been seen falling in.

In Gwynedd, north-west Wales, a woman's body was found in a stream in full flow near her house.

The deaths come as gale-force winds and heavy rain hit the Christmas getaway for road, rail, air and sea passengers. Fallen overhead power lines left thousands without electricity.

'Excess of water'

Meanwhile, among those affected by the severe weather conditions:

Image caption,
Flood alerts have been issued for much of the UK. The River Ouse in York caused flooding in nearby streets
Image caption,
In Lyme Regis and south-west England, spells of heavy rain are forecast to continue overnight and into Christmas Eve
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There were dramatic scenes in the Cornish village of Mousehole as thousands across the region were left without power
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The Environment Agency said there was a medium risk of flooding in Kent where waves battered the Dover coast

Insp Chris Wright, of Cumbria Police, said rivers in the county were "suffering an excess of water" because of the rain.

The search of the River Rothay began when a member of the public saw someone fall into the water at 14:25 GMT, and the man's body was found about an hour later. He has not yet been identified.

Insp Wright said: "It would be fair to say that the river in its current state did not assist the rescue operation. It was fast flowing, and a lot more water than normal, so yes it's fair to say that the weather contributed to the problem."

In a separate incident, police in Bethesda, Gwynedd, are investigating the death of a woman whose body was recovered in water 50m from her house. It was thought the woman had left her house to check a water supply.

"It's a small stream that runs off the mountain - about half a metre wide and three-quarters of a metre deep - but it was in full flow," Paul Smith from the Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue Team told BBC Wales.

'Serious storm'

The Met Office has amber "be prepared" alerts for rain in Wales, south-west England and London, and south-east England for Monday evening and Christmas Eve morning.

And it has amber warnings for wind for parts of the UK on Christmas Eve, including Northern Ireland, east England, and London and south-east England.

The Met Office has upgraded its warnings for high winds across large areas of northern and western Scotland.

Amber weather warnings now cover the Inner and Outer Hebrides, the north-west Highlands, Argyll and Bute, Orkney and Shetland.

BBC forecaster Peter Gibbs warned winds of 80mph would hit the south coast on Tuesday, while 70mph gusts were expected inland.

He said the worst weather on Tuesday would be in Scotland and Northern Ireland while more bad weather was on the way for Thursday and Friday.

"People might get there for Christmas, but they might have problems getting back later in the week," he added.

Media caption,
The BBC's Helen Fawkes spoke to Robin Gisby, from Network Rail, at Euston station

By Monday evening the wind had brought down more than 80 trees on train lines, Network Rail said, while mud-slides and flooding also caused delays.

Staff had had to clear trampolines and sheds from the lines, the rail company added.

Dozens of train operators across England, Wales and Scotland have delayed or cancelled services after speed restrictions were imposed on many routes, and many services were finishing earlier than normal.

Passengers were urged to travel as early as possible and advised to check the National Rail Enquiries website or speak to their train company.

Some routes would start up "a little later than usual" on Christmas Eve, said Network Rail's Robin Gisby.

Media caption,
Weather forecaster Elizabeth Saary explains why the UK is being hit by wet and windy weather again - and how long it will last for

Ferry services were also disrupted. On a ferry crossing from Portsmouth to Bilbao a passenger had to be airlifted from the ship after falling and injuring their neck.

"A lot of us thought the ferry was going over," Catriona Koris told the BBC from onboard.

The captain had anchored off France while carrier company Brittany Ferries cancelled its Portsmouth to Caen and Plymouth to Roscoff crossings, a spokesman said.

Passengers have reported lengthy delays to flights at Heathrow.

One said: "Sat on our plane at Heathrow awaiting a potential departure time. Three flights have taken off in the last hour and there is a queue of 30. Not optimistic of making our respective destinations for Christmas Day."

Another said: "Plane has left the gate and we are sitting waiting for the tower to allow us to move. Going to be a long night on the tarmac at Heathrow."

The Environment Agency issued flood warnings across much of England and Wales, as well as the severe warning in Weymouth.

By Monday afternoon there were more than 70 flood warnings, indicating that immediate action is required, for south-west England, and others in the north-west, north-east and Anglian areas.

The agency warned people not to try to drive through floodwater.

It warned that driving into just 30cm of water was enough to carry a car away, and advised people to heed warnings and move valuables upstairs if living in a "flood risk" area.

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