DCSIMG

Weather: Blitz spirit dries up amid looting fears

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  • by STEPHEN MCGINTY
 

TENS of thousands of homes remained without power last night as Britain endured another day of storms with more heavy winds and snow forecast today.

Almost 57,000 households were left without electricity after gusts of up to 108mph left one man dead and hundreds stranded on the transport ­system.

Fire and rescue services across England and Wales yesterday said they were responding with the largest deployment since the Second World War as they struggled to cope in the wake of widespread flooding.

Scotland is expected to escape the worst of the weather today with an amber warning, to be aware of snow, issued by the Met Office last night.

Communities in southern, south-west and central England remain at risk of flooding with more heavy rain expected today and tomorrow.

The Environment Agency has 16 severe flood warnings in place in the Thames Valley and Somerset, as well as 128 flood warnings across England and Wales.

Meanwhile, the Met Office said there would be a “multi-pronged attack” of wind, rain and snow striking the country today. The heavy rain could lead to more flooding and downpours of up to 40mm may fall in just six hours, according to staff.

Yesterday, the government’s chief fire and rescue adviser Peter Holland said that 70 per cent of the fire and rescue services in England and Wales were now involved in the flood relief effort. While the military has also been drafted in to help many affected areas, the fire and rescue service is working with specialist equipment to pump water from houses.

Speaking at a Department for Communities and Local Government briefing in central London, Mr Holland said: “We are now facing the largest deployment of fire and rescue service assets that has taken place since the Second World War, in terms of fire and rescue services ­involved.”

However, the Blitz spirt appeared to be crumbling yesterday as communities accused the Environment Agency of favouring some towns such as Chertsey at the expense of neighbouring areas. Fears that empty homes may be looted also rose after Thames Valley Police said a 31-year-old man had been ­arrested on suspicion of being equipped for theft in Horton, east Berkshire, in the early hours of yesterday.

Police said they were continuing to run regular patrols in areas affected by flooding in a bid to prevent burglaries.

Christchurch Borough Council in Dorset has come under fire from government ministers after it emerged they were charging residents £30 for four sandbags on the basis that the situation in the area was not an emergency.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg rejected calls for cash to be diverted from the UK’s £11 billion foreign aid budget to help flood victims.

The government will review flood defences after waters have receded, said Mr Clegg, promising: “I will make sure, as Deputy Prime Minister that, as we review things, we do so in a way that makes lasting change, where we can make that change, where we can afford it and deliver it.”

He said he backed dredging rivers where it could make a difference, but warned that it should not be viewed as a “magic wand” solution.

The latest bad weather will compound misery for communities who have seen rivers rise to record levels and prolonged flooding, in what has been described by army chief Major General Patrick Sanders as an “almost unparalleled” natural crisis.

Bank of England governor Mark Carney said the chaos threatened to derail Britain’s economic recovery. Since early December, 5,800 properties have been flooded across the country.

As the torrential weather continues to batter Britain, electricity supplies have also been affected. After a man was electrocuted in Wiltshire on Wednesday night, the Energy Networks Association (ENA) warned against people trying to tackle fallen power cables.

Tony Glover, director of policy at the ENA, said: “One message I want to convey very clearly to everybody today is the importance of safety. As we have tragically seen, someone has died and it has been reported that it is as a result of being electrocuted by a power cable while trying to remove a tree.

“I want to reiterate the point that safety is critical and the message to anyone who sees a power cable down is to not go anywhere near it and to phone the local network operator to report what has happened.”

FORECAST

FRIDAY: Between 10-20mm of rain is expected in south-east Scotland, with a risk that this may turn to snow. Parts of Angus, Perthshire and Grampian will see heavier snowfalls.

SATURDAY: Very unsettled weather with spells of rain. A continued risk of snow for the high ground, also a strong north north-westerly wind.

SUNDAY: There will be a wintry feel with strong north-westerly winds and frequent showers but by the afternoon most places will be dry.

 

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