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St Jude's Day storm: Four confirmed dead as Britain is bombarded with high winds and heavy rain

At it's peak a total of 600,000 homes were left without power as a result of the storm
  • @johnmatthewhall

Four people have been killed after a major storm battered Britain with high winds and heavy rain, leaving 600,000 homes without power and causing transport chaos.

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A 17-year-old girl named as Bethany Freeman and an unnamed man in his 50s in Watford were killed by falling trees in Kent and Watford respectively, while police this afternoon confirmed that the bodies of an elderly man and woman had been found in a west London house following a gas explosion also caused by a falling tree.

The blast occurred in Hounslow earlier this morning after a falling tree destroyed three houses and landed on a gas main. Witnesses say debris was scattered over 50 metres around the blast site, with local fire station manager Matt Burrows describing the usually leafy, suburban street as a "scene of devastation". The bodies of an unnamed elderly couple were found among the rubble following an extensive search earlier this afternoon.

Meanwhile in Edenbridge, 17-year-old Bethany Freeman suffered fatal injuries when a tree fell onto the static home in which she was sleeping.

Chief Superintendent Steve Corbishly from Kent Police said: “She was in a static home adjoining the house she lives in with her family. Tragically, she did die at the scene. It's not being treated as suspicious but we're working with Fire and Rescue to determine the exact cause.”

Seventeen-year-old Bethany Freeman who was killed by a falling tree

The unnamed 50-year-old man died after a tree crushed his red Peugeot 307 on Watford's Lower High Street.

The BBC quoted passer-by Mark Joseph as saying: "We tried to assist, trying to get the tree off, but it was impossible... The poor chap didn't stand a chance.”

Confirmation of the four deaths came amid news that the search has been called off for 14-year-old Dylan Alkins, who was swept out to sea in Newhaven yesterday afternoon in what the coastguard described as "atrocious" conditions.

David Cameron described the multiple loss of life as a result of the storm as "hugely regrettable".

The deaths came as commuters across the southern part of Britain faced disruption on road, rail and air transport services after the storm battered the UK, bringing with it near-100mph winds.

The weather system, dubbed the St Jude's day storm after the patron saint of lost causes and 'cases despaired of', whose feast day is today, has brought down trees across the region and according to overnight reports has damaged property and left many roads impassable through floodwater.

The storm hit the South West late last night before tracking north eastwards across England and southern Wales throughout the morning.

At its peak, a total of 600,000 homes were left without power as a result of the storm. According to the BBC, a spokesman for the Energy Networks Association, which represents power companies across the UK, said 310,000 of those households had now been reconnected, but admitted more homes have since been cut off as the storm moved north and eastwards.

Around 130 flights were cancelled at Heathrow, and Network Rail has said there is disruption on all train services in and out of London as a result of the "worse than expected" conditions.

A boat is dragged from its mooring on the beach and destroyed by large waves near Brighton Marina, in southern England


Developments at a glance

* 17-year-old Bethany Freeman killed  after a tree fell onto static home where she was sleeping in Kent

* Man in his 50s killed after a tree crushed his car in Watford

* Whitehall was closed both ways between Parliament Square and Horse Guards Avenue due to a collapsed crane.

* Storm force 11 winds were reported at Dover.

* A gust of 99mph (159km/h) was recorded on the Isle of Wight.

* Boy feared dead after being swept out to sea in New Haven, East Sussex.

* An empty passenger train has hit a tree near Ivybridge station in Devon.

* Severn crossings between South Wales and England have reopened.

* Network rail reporting more than 100 railway line blockages.

* Sussex Police tweeted that there were 125 trees down across roads in the county by 6.30am. 

* UK Power Networks says up to 270,000 households are without power across England.

* Heathrow Airport said around 130 flights had been cancelled.

* Transport for London (TfL) said there was disruption to six Underground lines due to debris from the storm on the tracks.

* Both reactors in Dungeness power station's B units have been automatically shut down

* Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in south-west London was closed today because of damage caused by the weather.

* Two people remain unaccounted for following a gas explosion caused by a falling tree

Many rail services that had hoped to be running reduced services before lunch are still badly affected - with some advising against travel for the rest of the day.

Parts of the country remain on flood alert with the Environment Agency issuing 12 flood warnings for the South West, as well as 131 flood alerts for the rest of England and Wales.

The public had been warned to expect the possibility of power cuts, trees blocking roads and transport disruption.


Waves crash near Brighton Pier in East Sussex, as England and Wales face a battering tonight from the worst storm in five years