Thousands of Britons face Christmas Day floods, blackouts in southern England

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 December, 2013, 7:17pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 December, 2013, 7:53pm

Thousands of Britons woke up to flooding and power cuts on Christmas morning after torrential rainfall and hurricane-force winds battered the country.

Three severe flood warnings are in place along with over 350 secondary warnings and alerts, largely across southern and central England, Britain's environment agency said on Wednesday.

Tens of thousands of people, mostly in southern England, had no electricity late on Christmas Eve and engineers were working on Christmas Day to restore power.

I'm across plans to get electricity to many without power
Prime Minister David Cameron

A spokeswoman from energy company Southern Electric, Morven Smith, had already told BBC Radio that some customers would be without power on Christmas Day.

Winds of up to 145 km/h hit both Britain and France on Monday and Christmas Eve, with heavy downpours causing cancellations of rail, flight and ferry services.

Five people - including a man who tried to rescue his dog from a river - have died in Britain over the last three days due to the high winds and heavy rainfall.

Police in Dorset, in southwest England, evacuated more than 100 residents in the early hours of Wednesday in two separate locations following fears of flooding from a nearby river.

At London's second airport Gatwick, power cuts -- which caused angry scenes between passengers and staff on Tuesday -- continued as stranded travellers tried to catch flights on Christmas Day.

"Due to adverse weather in the last 48 hours there are still power outages in parts of our North Terminal, these are causing delays to departing flights," said a message on the airport's website.

Hurricane-force winds and torrential rain disrupted transport networks and cut power supplies in Britain and France on Tuesday, one of the busiest travel days of the year just before Christmas.

Passengers on a train heading to Plymouth in Devon spent the night stranded in the town of Taunton, tweeting photos of their 'bed', a seat, but praising staff.

British train operators cancelled hundreds of services on Tuesday morning, by which time the storm had abated, leaving hundreds of thousands of people scrambling to get onto later services in and out of London.

Previous blackouts

In France, Brittany and Normandy were among the regions worst hit by severe weather, where 240,000 homes lost electricity, while in southern England, 150,000 homes were cut off from the power grid, according to the Energy Networks Association.

British Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted: "I'm across plans to get electricity to many without power. My thoughts are with them and those facing travel problems this Christmas Eve."

France's SNCF national rail service reported numerous delays but said no rail lines had been put out of service so far.

Britain's Environment Agency said flooding was expected to affect much of the country, with 245 flood alerts, 125 flood warnings and one severe flood warning in place. Some towns in France's Brittany region also faced severe flooding.

Britain's weather forecasting agency, the Met Office, said conditions would ease on Christmas Day and Boxing Day but warned of further wet and stormy weather on Friday, causing more headaches for retailers during "the sales", the usually busy post-Christmas discounting period.