Storms kill three and leave thousands without power

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The Independent Online

Three people were killed as the worst storms seen for years continued batter parts of the UK.

Britain was lashed by hurricane-force winds today in some of the worst weather for years.

Three people were killed as parts of the UK were battered overnight by severe storms, toppling trees, telegraph poles and power lines.

Winds of up to 124mph caused severe damage and tens of thousands of homes were still without power today as parts of the country continued to experience storm-force winds.

The full force of the weather was unleashed in Scotland, where 60,000 homes were without electricity.

Roads and bridges were closed, ferry services abandoned and rail routes suspended as police and travel chiefs appealed to the public to postpone non-essential journeys.

Earlier a search was launched for a Spanish fishing vessel with 19 crew onboard after a satellite distress beacon was picked up by coastguards.

A Nimrod aircraft left RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire at first light to join the search, which was co-ordinated at RAF Kinloss.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency confirmed that the Nimrod had spotted the vessel - Cibeles - and that all crew were safe and well.

Coastguards were also called out to rescue a couple trapped by floodwater in a car near Easton, Cumbria.

The panicked man and woman called police at around 12.30am after fast-moving floodwater engulfed their Ford Fiesta.

A police spokesman said water had risen to the height of the windscreen when rescuers arrived and moved the couple to higher ground.

Nobody was injured in the incident, which took place on a road close to the B5307.

Stornoway Coastguard had to co-ordinate 14 incidents, including five fishing vessels and smaller boats either sunk or aground, drifting yachts and roads which have been washed away.

Lochboisdale Coastguard Rescue Team were called out to rescue an 84-year-old woman trapped in her home in South Uist by rising floodwater.

On land, the A1 from Edinburgh to Newcastle was closed north of Berwick after a collision involving a lorry and a car.

The car driver, a man, was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash, which happened near Eyemouth at about 7.30pm yesterday. The lorry driver suffered minor injuries.

Another driver was killed when his articulated vehicle was blown off the Foyle Bridge in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, as 90mph winds battered parts of the province.

In Tayside, Scotland, a van driver died when his vehicle and a lorry collided on the A90 northbound near Forfar just after 7pm.

Part of the busy M8 between Glasgow and Edinburgh was closed due to a loose sign threatening to fall on the motorway.

The north west of Scotland and islands, where many schools and offices remain closed today, was taking the brunt of the weather.

Gusts of 124mph were recorded on North Rona, while winds reached 105mph on Barra, both in the Western Isles.

The Diabaig and Scalpay areas in the Scottish Highlands were without a 999 service early today and all Cal Mac ferries were cancelled.

The Scottish Ambulance Service also advised residents in the Highlands and Islands not to call for ambulance assistance unless faced with a life-threatening situation.

Police in the Highlands warned motorists to stay off the roads unless absolutely necessary and many schools in the region were closed.

Meanwhile 10,000 homes in the Northumberland market town of Hexham are still without water, with repairs due to start this morning.

Fort William Coastguard evacuated six elderly residents from 4ft floodwaters in their housing complex in Oban, while Oban Coastguard rescued a man who was floating away inside his camper van.

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

Power supplier Scottish Hydro Electric said 60,000 customers who had been cut off by the freak weather in Argyll, the Western Isles and Highlands, and also in the central belt, were still without power.

There were major power failures at Gairloch, Ullapool and Portree, where the winds even disrupted mobile phone coverage.

All non-emergency operations were cancelled at Western Isles Hospital in Stornoway and non-essential staff were told to stay at home.

Extended power cuts also caused water supply problems in some areas of the Highlands and Islands worst affected by the overnight gales.

Around 1,000 homes were still without power in Northern Ireland today as severe storm-force winds battered the province. At one stage 26,000 customers were affected by the winds which reached up to 100 miles per hour in some places.

North west England was bracing itself for the severe weather to move south.

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