Two dead in storms with no sign of floods letting up in Britain

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Flooding in Staines-upon-Thames.
Image: Marcin Cajzer.

Two people have died in incidents related to storms that battered the southern coast of England last night while many across the country continue to struggle with flooding, property damage, and closure of road and railway routes.

In central London, masonry from a building near Holborn tube station fell on top of a car in the street outside, killing a woman and injuring a man in the car. The woman was pronounced dead on the scene; the man is recovering in hospital and is reported to be in a stable condition. A third, female passenger in the car escaped before emergency responders arrived.

The MS Marco Polo.
Image: Luca Riva.

In the English Channel, an 85-year-old man and a woman in her 70s were airlifted from the cruise ship MS Marco Polo which was hit by a large storm wave on its way back to Tilbury, Essex. The man subsequently died. Other passengers aboard the ship suffered minor injuries.

The cruise line operator, Cruise & Maritime Voyages (CMV), said in a statement: "CMV regrets to advise that earlier today their cruise ship MS Marco Polo, en-route to her home port of Tilbury from the Azores, was hit by a freak wave during adverse sea conditions in the south western approaches of the English Channel. One elderly passenger has died and a further passenger has been airlifted for further shore-side medical assistance. The vessel sailed from Tilbury on January 5 and is carrying 735 mainly British passengers and 349 crew. Our thoughts are very much with these passengers and their families during this difficult time."

In addition to the two deaths from yesterday's storms, a 77-year-old man died yesterday from injuries sustained Wednesday in the town of Caernarfon, in Gwynedd, Wales. Bob Thomas was hospitalised after being hit by a falling tree in his garden.

Flooding in Bury St Edmunds.
Image: Martin Pettitt.

The Met Office said that after storms this weekend, weather in the UK should return to "normal winter weather" next week. In contrast to the predictions of the Met Office, the Environment Agency have said that floods could remain in some areas of England until March, and that up to 3,000 homes in the Thames Valley could be flooded over the weekend. On Friday, they raised the number of "danger to life" level flood warnings from 17 to 24.

Flooding across England and Wales has led to thousands being without electricity. In North Wales, as of Friday 17,000 people had no electricity supply, while 7,000 homes in Cornwall and Devon had their electricity supply cut off by Friday's storms.

Trains operated by Southeastern, Southern, South West Trains, CrossCountry, and First Great Western have been affected. Train services to Staines-upon-Thames and Windsor have been replaced by buses.

Trains on the London to Hastings service have been affected by land-slips between Wadhurst and Battle in East Sussex while trains to East Grinstead and Uckfield have been affected by a land-slip at Oxted in Surrey.

Services in the south-west have been affected by damage to railway lines in Dawlish. Service is not expected to restart for at least six weeks. In Devon, buses have replaced trains between Exeter and Newton Abbot.

The damage to the railway line at Dawlish has been the subject of criticism by passenger group TravelWatch SouthWest who said Network Rail — the company charged with maintaining the British railway network — had been "in complete denial" about the vulnerability of the sea wall. The group pointed to a 2004 report they produced arguing for re-routing of railway services on a disused railway in the area. "Had the recommendation in that 2004 report been heeded, the studies would already have been completed, and a clear preferred diversionary route might now be available", they said.

In Wales, there have been delays on the railway between Porth and Pontypridd, and replacement bus services between Hereford and Newport due to flooding in Abergavenny. Trains going between Manchester and Cardiff have also been affected by the floods.

Streets have closed in Purley, Oxford, Worcester and Wrexham. Journeys for drivers using the A29, A32, A4113, A54, and A57 roads have all been affected. A 50-foot-hole appeared in the M2 motorway in Kent which led to the closure of a ten mile section of the road.