Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Storm-death mother tells of grief

Departure boards at Victoria station showing train cancellations after the storm

The mother of a grammar school pupil killed when a huge tree toppled on to her caravan as she slept has spoken of her sense of loss.

Tess Peirce said her family was "absolutely devastated" at the death of 17-year-old Bethany Freeman.

The talented sportswoman, nicknamed Gia, was crushed when a 30ft (9m) tree fell down amid high winds in Lydens Lane in Hever, near Edenbridge, Kent. It came as thousands of home owners were told to face another night without power, as engineers were drafted in to help reconnect the worst affected areas.

In a statement issued through Kent Police, Ms Peirce said: "We are all absolutely devastated at the loss of my daughter. I would like to thank the emergency services for their tremendous efforts in attempting to save her."

Bethany was a "universally respected" sixth-form pupil at Tunbridge Wells Grammar School who "had everything to look forward to", the school's website said.

There were tragic scenes as her driving instructor arrived at her home to pick her up without knowing she had died.

She was among four people killed as hurricane-force winds battered England and Wales, leaving a trail of destruction.

"Loving husband" and father-of-three Donal Drohan, 51, originally from Waterford in Ireland, died when his car was hit by a tree near the bridge over the River Colne in Watford, Hertfordshire.

Mr Drohan, from Harrow, west London, was killed when his car was struck by a falling tree in Lower High Street.

In Hounslow, west London, three houses were destroyed and two others were damaged by an explosion, thought to have been caused by a ruptured gas main.

Officers were called to Bath Road at around 7.30am and at noon they found a man's body at number 47 amid "scenes of devastation".

An hour and a half later, a woman - whom investigators were trying to identify - was found dead at the same property.

Residents and business owners may face a second night in the dark after vast swathes of Britain suffered power outages.

Latest figures from UK Power Networks show there are currently about 24,000 properties in the East and 7,000 in the South East without power . Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire are among the countie which are back to normal.

Engineers hope to have 98% of power supplies which were affected, restored by Wednesday and the final few by the end of the week.

Director of customer services Matt Rudling said: "We are aiming to have 98% of power supplies which were affected yesterday, restored by tomorrow and the final few by the end of the week.

"I would like to thank people who are still without power for their patience, and stress that we are working to restore all supplies as quickly as is safely possible.

"A lot of hard of work is going on round the clock and we are making good progress with repairs."

UK Power Networks said that about 1,000 engineers - about six times the usual number on duty - are still working to repair the damaged network and restore power. Helicopter patrols are also being carried out to check on overhead power lines.

Around half a million homes and businesses are thought to have been affected since the storm first touched the British mainland overnight on Sunday, with the South of England bearing the brunt.

And while many train services have been reinstated following yesterday's severely disrupted operations, rail users were still asked to check travel times as delays were reported.

Greater Anglia services between Liverpool Street and Enfield Town were cancelled because of a fallen tree on the line between Edmonton Green and Southbury. There was no service on the Stansted Express, while those hoping to travel on London Midland trains between Watford Junction and St Albans Abbey were told they would not be running until tomorrow due to a fallen tree.

Today, the storm, which is now over Scandinavia, has been replaced with far lighter winds and rain, but dozens of areas in southern England remain on flood alert, the Environment Agency said.

Insurers are counting the cost of the storm but say it is too early to tell whether it will compare with the multibillion-pound hits caused by previous severe weather events.

Initial estimates of the level of financial damage wrought are not expected until later this week, the Association of British Insurers said.

During yesterday morning, winds of up to 100mph swept through the South West, South, South East, the Midlands and the East of England after first hitting land in the early hours.

Up to 2.4in (6cm) of rain - half the monthly average - fell in just a few hours during the storm in areas including Hampshire and Devon, causing flash floods.

Met Office spokeswoman Laura Young warned that the impacts from the storm are still around and urged the public to remain alert.

John Lee, a forecaster for the MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said it was the most powerful storm in years.

"There will no doubt be some disruption still following the damage caused by strong winds and heavy rain, but the weather will be quite different," he said.

"It will be blustery with some showers, especially in the west, but a lot lighter.

"On Friday there is an indication that stormy weather could return, but it's likely to bring heavy rain rather than strong winds."

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