Dec 25 2013
Thousands of people face a cold and wet Christmas after storms caused widespread flooding and power failures across the UK.
Scores of homes have been left under water and tens of thousands will endure a Christmas Day without electricity after torrential rain lashed the country.
The Coastguard rescued 76 people from a caravan park that was flooded by the River Medway at Yalding in Kent last night.
Travellers trying to get home on Christmas Eve also battled treacherous conditions on the roads and suffered major delays as the rail network was brought to its knees.
There was chaos at Gatwick Airport in West Sussex after a power cut at the North Terminal led to cancellations and delays, leaving thousands of passengers stranded. The airport said last night normal service would resume today.
Five people have have also died in the last three days because of the violent weather.
The Coastguard, operating outside its area of jurisdiction, joined Kent Fire and Rescue to rescue people from the Little Venice Caravan and Marina Park in Yalding after rising waters from the River Medway cut them off.
Rescuers checked caravans and helped residents to leave by boat and 4x4 vehicles.
B y 8pm the water was chest deep, the Coastguard said, and a helicopter was brought in as a precaution while the last 21 people were led to safety from rising flood waters and listing caravans.
Around 75,000 homes across the UK are still without power, the Energy Networks Association said, and engineers were working through the night to get provision running for Christmas Day.
The Environment Agency (EA) said that by last night 150 properties had been flooded in England, mainly in the south and focused in Surrey and Kent, with numbers expected to rise.
Firefighters in the two counties broke a five-hour nationwide strike last night to help deal with the effects of the storms.
In Surrey residents were evacuated from their homes in Dorking, Leatherhead and Guildford, while more evacuations occurred in Tonbridge, Kent.
Some 40 properties were evacuated in Godalming because of concerns over the height of the River Wey, Surrey Police said, and a rest centre was set up for residents.
In the Mole Valley evacuations took place in Leatherhead and Dorking after the River Mole burst its banks in several areas.
Police said the Flanchford Bridge over the River Mole near Reigate had collapsed, but no one was injured.
A severe flood warning, warning of danger to life, remains in place for the river at Leatherhead and Fetcham in Surrey after it rose to record-breaking levels late last night. Levels are now beginning to fall, the EA said.
Roads were also closed in Guildford and Old Woking in Surrey, police said. Surrey Fire and Rescue said last night that it was dealing with "many rescues" because of the flooding.
The EA this morning had almost 130 flood warnings across England and Wales, mainly in the South East, the South West and the Midlands. A further 226 flood alerts were also in place, with 90 in the South East alone.
The flooding will leave Christmas cancelled for many people. Gary Button, manager of the Old Mill Hotel in Batheaston near Bath, told the BBC he had to cancel more than 50 Christmas dinners after the River Avon flooded the property.
Thousands of people have had their Christmas plans ruined by the storms, and many face the festive period without power.
UK Power Networks said yesterday it would pay for Christmas dinner in local pubs or restaurants for people whose supplies remain cut off, and is appealing for owners in affected areas to come forward if they have room.
Southern Electric restored power to thousands of homes, but said around 19,500 customers would be without power overnight.
Jonny Swift, from Crawley in Sussex, told the BBC: "Power off since 2345 Monday night, been told by UK Power not to expect the power to be back on until Boxing Day at the earliest.
"Not a very Merry Christmas for the family this year but thanks to very kind friends we will have Christmas lunch tomorrow, the Christmas spirit alive and well in West Sussex."
John Townsend, who lives near Haywards Heath in West Sussex, said: "My village has been without power for 24 hours. There was going to be emergency generators but the cables to connect were stolen.
"So metal thieves have ruined our Christmas and it seems we won't have power until Boxing Day."
Flooding on the River Mole affected substations at Gatwick Airport and led to power cuts in parts of the North Terminal, causing 36 flights to be cancelled.
Police had to be called after furious passengers vented their frustrations at lengthy delays, with many stranded and left waiting in terminals for many hours with little information from airlines.
Tim Christie, from Clapham Junction, told the BBC he got home at 1am today, more than 16 hours after his flight was meant to depart.
He said: "Was meant to fly at 8.30am. We had no communication all day from easyJet as to anything that was happening.
"When our flights were finally cancelled we struggle to find any easyJet employees to offer assistance. It really was a disorganised shambles, a disaster from start to finish, we only wanted information and to travel ultimately to Belfast.
"Tonight we are not home with close family and loved ones, but I guess we have our health and life goes on."
An airport spokesman said today there were still power cuts at the North Terminal, causing delays, and that it would be operating a full service on Christmas Day, with all departures from the South Terminal apart from British Airways.
Those travelling home for Christmas yesterday faced chaos on the railways, roads and seaways.
There was major disruption across the rail network as services were delayed and cancelled across the country.
Network Rail said more than 200 trees had come down on lines in 24 hours, and it had to deal with a further 100 major incidents.
On the roads, many major routes were flooded or blocked, with Kent, Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex and Cornwall among affected counties.
In Dorset fire crews had to rescue 25 people trapped in their cars by flood water.
Fire crews have rescued one adult and three children from a car stuck in floodwater in Podimore, Yeovil in Somerset.
The Port of Dover was also closed for much of Monday night.
Five people have died in the bad weather.
A man whose body was pulled from the fast-flowing River Rothesay in Ambleside, Cumbria on Monday was named as Simon Martindale, 48, of Hest Bank, Lancaster.
A woman died in a river in Gwynedd, North Wales, on Monday, another was killed in a car accident in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, and a man died in a crash near Bodmin, Cornwall on Sunday night.
A man also died after being taken to hospital with serious injuries after he jumped into a fast-flowing river to rescue his dog.
Witnesses saw the 46-year-old being swept away after he leapt into the River Lemon in Newton Abbot, Devon, at 11.15am yesterday. The dog managed to escape from the water unharmed.
Winds are expected to ease today, before heavy rain and gales pick up again on Friday.