Families flee homes cut off by floods

TRANSPORT was disrupted and hundreds of families were evacuated from their homes yesterday as the weather continued to wreak havoc.

The 11,000-ton Latvian fish factory ship Darius with 153 people on board got into difficulties off Orkney as it was being towed by the ocean-going tug Smit Lloyd 121. A line to the tug broke in a force 12 storm.

Coastguards said: 'We are keeping a very close eye on the situation. The master of the ship has said he does not require evacuation.' The tug was called to tow her to Ullapool in north-west Scotland after the ship had problems with its engine off Shetland on Saturday.

Earlier, an oil tanker broke down off Shetland prompting another alert in the islands, which are still recovering from the Braer disaster. A tug was sent out after the 87,000-ton Ambra Dolphin with 35 people on board briefly lost power 10 miles off Muckle Flugga at the north tip of Shetland. The tanker crew managed to restart the engines. The ship was not carrying a cargo of oil but was thought to have several hundred tons of bunker fuel aboard.

In Scotland, melting snow, plus torrential rain and high winds flooded low-lying areas, cutting off towns. Worst affected areas were Perthshire and central Scotland. The RAF was called in to rescue several stranded people. A helicopter from RAF Leuchars winched two men to safety from a van stranded by floodwaters at Meigle, Tayside. It also picked up a woman and two children when a flooded river cut off their farm near Blairgowrie.

Nearly 100 residents of flats in Stirling were evacuated by boat as the rising river Forth threatened the area. Ten houses were evacuated in Auchtermuchty, Fife.

In Wales, high winds tore most of the roof off an infants' school in Llandudno, Gwynedd. Tiles crashed through roofs and windows and four families were forced to leave their homes.

(Photograph omitted)