UK & World News

  • 6 February 2014, 1:31

Battered Britain: Misery As Storms Cut Key Line

The main railway line between Exeter and Penzance has been cut by severe weather and is unlikely to be repaired for up to six weeks.

Around 2,800 homes also remain without power in southwest England and Wales.

In Ireland, work is continuing to restore power to more than 353 properties which remain cut off, as the second city, Cork, was inundated for the third time in five days.

It comes as 150 properties in three villages in Somerset - Northmoor, Saltmoor and Fordgate - were urged to evacuate by Avon and Somerset Police.

The Prime Minister has announced an extra £100m to help the communities worst affected by the severe weather - £75m to fund repairs, £15m on maintenance and £10m earmarked for "urgent work" in Somerset.

Weather forecasters say they expect a slight let up on Thursday when the rain and wind will ease, but stormy conditions will return on Friday.

Two severe weather warnings, indicating significant danger to life, remain in force for Somerset. The first is for the area affected by the evacuations and the second is from the A361 East Lyng to Burrowbridge.

The disruption to railway services in the South West has been caused by a section of seawall under the coastal track in Dawlish collapsing. The line has been closed and police have declared it a major incident.

Network Rail has said engineers were "working around the clock" to fix the damage. First Great Western Trains advised passengers not to travel west of Exeter St Davids station because of the "major" damage.

Local services in Devon, Cornwall and Somerset will work to amended timetables, with no service between Exeter St Davids and Plymouth.

David Parlby, from the Plymouth Chamber of Commerce, was quoted as saying the cost of the closure for the local economy could be as high as £500m.

At Westminster, David Cameron chaired a meeting of the government's crisis committee Cobra and tweeted afterwards there should be "no restrictions on help for those affected".

Owen Paterson, the Environment Secretary, has pulled out of leading the government's response to the floods in order to have emergency surgery on a detached retina.

He was due to chair a Cobra meeting on Thursday and make a statement in the House of Commons. Mr Paterson has come in for criticism for his handling of the crisis.

A Downing Street spokesman said he is set to be off "for a few days". Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, will be in charge of the government's response in his absence.

Residents were evacuated from 30 flooded houses in Kingsand, Cornwall, and Tamar Coastguard Rescue Team helped rescue "a number of people".

Homes were evacuated on the seafront at Torcross in Devon, as the high tide smashed the fronts of four properties, while restaurants on Plymouth seafront were damaged.

High tides have flooded properties in Exmouth, Lympstone, Starcross and Topsham.

There are also reports that the Watering Hole pub in Perranporth, Cornwall, is at risk of being swept away. Firefighters have been dealing with reports of flooding in Polkerris, Fowey and Looe - where 35 homes have been affected.

The elements took their toll on Brighton's disused West Pier, which has been crumbling for years but saw a "significant section of the pavilion island skeleton" collapse last night.

Across the southern half of the UK 45 less severe flood warnings and 158 flood alerts remain in place. In Scotland there are two flood warnings for Tayside and Fife and a further two flood alerts in Aberdeenshire and Dundee and Angus.

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