Ministers visits area hit by floods


Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman will visit the North East of England today as home-owners, businesses and the insurance industry count the cost of a major clean-up operation after freak storms hit the country.

Hundreds of rail engineers are working to repair damaged tracks which disrupted services between England and Scotland.

The volume of rain that fell on Thursday submerged cars and flooded homes which were well away from rivers and streams.

Northern Powergrid said 2,450 customers in the North East were without electricity after lightning strikes damaged supply lines.

Claire Austin, a forecaster with the MeteoGroup, the weather arm of the Press Association, said the outlook for the weekend was sunshine and showers for most places, with no sign of a repeat of the intense storms.

"Next week is looking like more rain for most places," she said.

Retired school teacher Michael Ellis died on Thursday after he was swept away in floods in Shropshire.

His wife Judith described the 66-year-old as "a gentle, caring man" and the "most wonderful husband".

The Environment Agency said the period of April to June has been the wettest since records began.

Organisers of the Godiva Festival in Coventry, which was expected to attract 100,000 revellers, had to cancel the event because of the weather.

The Tyne and Wear Metro network is running a reduced train service, with replacement buses operating between some stations.

Northern Powergrid said the areas most affected by loss of power were Consett, Stanhope and Alnwick.

The company has cancelled all planned engineering work and redeployed staff in a bid to restore power to all homes as soon as possible.

Rail services were badly disrupted as rain tore away track beds at Scremerston, Northumberland, and landslides in the Lake District and Scottish Highlands caused more problems.

It led to thousands being stranded as no trains could pass between Newcastle and Edinburgh. The route has since been reopened, but with journey times extended by 90 minutes.

A normal service is expected to run between London and Leeds today.

The Environment Agency has eight flood alerts in place - five in the Midlands - but no warnings.

Northern Powergrid said that at 9am today 143 customers in the North East were still without power as a result of Thursday night's floods and lightning strikes.

A spokesman said: "Our engineers are working extremely hard to restore power to these properties as soon as possible.

"We would like to thank all our customers for their patience and apologise for any inconvenience they are experiencing.

"If you are without power, we would like to provide the following advice:

"Turn off electrical appliances at the socket. This is particularly important for heating or cooking appliances as your power could return at any time and potentially cause a safety hazard if you are absent, asleep or unaware.

"Keep one light switched on so that you know when electricity has returned.

"Check on any vulnerable neighbours and relatives to make sure they are comfortable and well.

"Use battery-powered lamps or torches if possible instead of candles as they are safer.

"Only call 999 in the event of an emergency.

"Please contact our power cut helpline on 0800 668877 any time, night or day, if your power supply has been affected."