Fears for family after car is washed out to sea in storms

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A family of five is feared dead after tidal waters washed them into the sea in the Western Isles during the worst storms in more than a decade.

A family of five is feared dead after tidal waters washed them into the sea in the Western Isles during the worst storms in more than a decade.

Archie MacPherson, 36, his wife Murdina, 37, their children Andrew, seven, and Hannah, five and Murdina's father, Calum Campbell, 67, had been trying to flee their gale-lashed family home on the island of South Uist.

But it is thought that the family were swept into the sea as they travelled in two cars across an 800m causeway on their way to Mr Campbell's home on Benbecula. The bodies of Mr McPherson, a joiner, his wife and Mr Campbell were found yesterday on the shoreline. Those of the children are still missing.

It was the worst single incident in a night of devastation, which also claimed the lives of three drivers. Winds of up to 124mph toppled trees, telegraph poles and power lines as they swept across Scotland, Northern Ireland and the north of England.

Road and rail networks in the north and west of Scotland were thrown into chaos, ferry services to many of the Scottish islands were cancelled, while many schools and offices remained closed due to the severe weather.

At Berwick, near the Scottish border, a car driver was killed on Tuesday night after a lorry overturned on top of his vehicle on the A1 near Eyemouth. In Tayside, near Forfar, a van driver died when his vehicle and a lorry collided on the A90 northbound. The driver of an articulated lorry was killed when his vehicle was blown off the Foyle Bridge in Derry, Northern Ireland, as 90mph winds battered parts of the region.

In Scotland, the Erskine, Cromarty and Kessock bridges were closed while the Forth road, Friarton, Skye and Tay road bridges were open to cars only.

Throughout the Highlands yesterday police warned motorists to stay off the roads unless absolutely necessary and the Scottish Ambulance Service advised residents in the Highlands and Islands not to call for assistance unless faced with a life-threatening situation.

The western coast of Scotland suffered the worst effects of the storm, which is expected to have blown itself out by this morning.

A search for a Spanish fishing vessel with 19 crew onboard after a satellite distress beacon was picked up by coastguards resulted in a dramatic rescue operation 200 miles off the Western Isles. The vessel was discovered drifting without power in high seas.

Six elderly residents had to be rescued from 4ft deep flood waters in their housing complex in Oban while coastguard officers had to pull a man to safety as his camper van was carried away by the water.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) issued 21 flood watches and 13 flood warnings.

Scottish Hydro Electric said that more than 60,000 people in Argyll, the Western Isles and Highlands, and the central belt, had suffered power cuts.

Further south, thousands of homes across Cumbria were still without electricity last night from the floods earlier in the week and 10,000 homes in the Northumberland market town of Hexham were still without water. In Carlisle, where three people died in the floods, around 2,700 homes were still without electricity.

Coastguards were called out to rescue a man and woman trapped in their car by floodwater near Easton, Cumbria, yesterday.