UK & World News

  • 30 December 2013, 3:53

Fresh Misery As Another Storm Heads For UK

Fears of fresh flooding have been raised as another band of persistent rain and strong winds head towards the UK.

The latest storm pushing in from the Atlantic will spreading northeastwards from the west potentially causing disruption throughout this morning.

It comes as the chief executive of one of the UK's biggest power distributors admitted its efforts to restore power to thousands of people should have been better.

Basil Scarsella, chief executive of the UK Power Networks, said the company was not prepared for the storm and too many staff were on holiday.

The Met Office has issued a severe weather warning over fears of severe gales with gusts up to 80mph affecting Wales, and southwestern and southern England.

It has also warned people in parts of south west Scotland to prepare for the risk of flooding.

That is likely to add to the misery of thousands who have been left without power and suffered flooding in their homes over the Christmas period.

The Energy Networks Association said the number of homes still without power was now around 1,500.

UK Power Networks, which owns power lines and cables in London, the South East and East of England, said it will increase payments for 48 to 60-hour outages from 27 to 75 for those affected on Christmas Day as a "gesture of goodwill".

Additional payments will be made to customers who have been without electricity for longer than that time - up to a maximum of 432.

Mr Scarsella said: "We could not have avoided the damage caused by the storm but we could have responded to it better.

"A lot of our employees had gone away for holidays so it meant we had a level of depletion in our resources - and that caused problems with getting people's power restored.

"It's difficult to justify saying the company has performed well when customers have been without power for five days, but once we had an idea of how bad it was we were able to mobilise as many engineers and office staff as possible."

The company said 169 customers in Kent, 22 in Surrey and 112 in Sussex remained without power as a result of storm damage.

In a statement, regulator Ofgem reminded energy companies they are obliged to get power back on as soon as possible.

It said: "These obligations are backed by strong regulatory incentives put in place by Ofgem on the companies to maintain service levels and restore supplies. These include loss of revenues and awarding compensation payments to customers off supply."

Around 1,300 properties have been flooded during the recent storms in England, the Environment Agency said, while flood defences have protected more than 80,000 properties. Some 71 flood alerts and 14 more serious flood warnings remain in place across the country.

It warned the predicted rainfall meant there is a "continued heightened flood risk" across southern England, especially southwest England where river levels remain high and the ground is already saturated.

A Downing Street spokesman said ministers held a Cobra emergency meeting on Saturday where it was agreed financial assistance will be given to local authorities facing an undue financial burden because of the storms through a process known as the Bellwin scheme.

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