Belfast Telegraph

Storm misery: Has the Queen had words with Downing Street as Darwin brings death and anguish to Britain and Ireland?

Superstorm Darwin has left hundreds of thousands of homes without electricity across Ireland and the UK, with hurricane-strength gales disrupting flights and ferries and closing roads and schools.

Northern Ireland was swept by snow, rain and gales yesterday with one Met Office forecastersaying he had not seen such an unrelenting run of bad weather in his 30 years in the job.

As the latest storm approached there were fears of widespread disruption as the Met Office upgraded its severe weather warning to 'amber' and police issued several warnings to drivers to reduce their speed and exercise caution on the roads.

In the Republic of Ireland schools and workplaces were forced to closed and hundreds of trees were toppled cutting electricity to more than 260,000 homes.

Across the UK further travel disruption is expected today as 80mph gale-force winds are predicted. More than 80,000 homes remain without power.

Is the Queen not amused by Downing Street storm response?

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg rejected calls for cash to be diverted from the UK's £11 billion foreign aid budget to help flood victims.

Mr Clegg told LBC 97.3 radio: "I don't think it's an either/or. Of course charity starts at home and we have got to help those who have been affected by this flooding ... but I don't think you help Peter by stealing from Paul.

"I don't think at the end of the day we are necessarily going to help ourselves in the long run by not helping people who are wretched and poor and suffering the consequences of climate change in other parts of the world.

"If we don't work hard to help other countries to deal with desertification and climate change and all the things that produce this volatile weather, then it gets worse for all of us.

"We don't help the people in Cornwall, in Somerset, in the Thames Valley, by making people in other continents poorer."

Mr Clegg last week said that politicians should not "get under the feet of emergency services" working on floods, but has since visited Somerset and will later today view affected areas of Cornwall. He told LBC listeners he only took the decision to go to flooded areas after receiving assurances from those commanding the relief efforts that he would not get in their way.

The Government will review flood defences after waters have receded, said Mr Clegg, promising: "I will make sure, as Deputy Prime Minister, that as we review things we do so in a way that makes lasting change, where we can make that change, where we can afford it and deliver it."

He said he backed dredging in rivers where it could make a difference, but warned that it should not be viewed as a "magic wand" solution.

Mr Clegg denied a report that the Queen criticised the Government response to the floods in a private meeting with him in his role as president of the Privy Council.

Asked on LBC radio whether it was true that the Queen had "waded in" over flooding, Mr Clegg replied: "No."

He declined to discuss the content of their conversations any further.

Warning to Northern Ireland drivers

While Northern Ireland appears to have emerged from the latest pummelling comparatively lightly, it was not left completely unscathed as gusts of up to 90mph tore across the country and torrential rain hammered down.

Heavy snow left roads in the north west, especially the Glenshane Pass, in a treacherous state.

Drivers were advised to take extra care as a 'yellow' warning of ice was issued last night.

In England, one man, believed to be aged in his 70s, died in a suspected electrocution while attempting to move a tree that had been brought down by power cables in Chippenham, Wiltshire. A lorry driver was taken to hospital after high winds blew over his vehicle in Bristol, while another man received treatment being trapped under a fallen tree in Chivenor, Barnstaple, Devon.

The Rathgael Road in Bangor was closed between the Belfast Road and Newtownards Road following a two-vehicle collision during the worst of the weather.

Gusts of up to 90mph were reported in coastal areas and emergency repair crews remained on standby amid fears power supplies could be hit.

Stark beauty amid the snow: photographer's perfect image after 13-hour trek in freezing Glenshane Pass 

Several roads were blocked by fallen trees, among them the north-bound stretch of the A1 between Banbridge and Dromore, Co Down.

There were also reports of some surface flooding in east Belfast.

Ballypatrick Forest in Antrim recorded 36.2mm of rainfall closely followed by 33mm in Banagher in Co Londonderry.

Picture below: A large area of the Rostrevor Road which collapsed due to continued bar weather

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Picture shows a large area of the Rostrevor Road which collapsed due to continued bar weather. Pic Twitter

Northern Ireland Electricity said that it initiated an emergency plan last night with emergency crews, engineers and call handlers on standby as it prepared for possible damage to the electricity network.

Across Northern Ireland around 600 homes were left without power.

One resident of Newry described scenes of chaos as the power went out in a Tesco store.

A coastal route in south Down had to be closed to traffic after the road collapsed, exposing a 11,000 volt power cable buried beneath the surface.

The Strangford Ferry service was cancelled and flights were delayed, and P&O Ferries notified customers of extended crossing times and delays entering and leaving ports on all UK routes.

Earlier in the day, flooding caused delays to the Belfast to Derry rail service.

Hectic night for emergency services

Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service had one of its busiest evenings for several years answering more than 300 calls for help with a range of incidents largely involving unsafe structures. Most did not have large-scale damage and no rescues were needed.

Fire services attended more than 100 incidents including 77 unsafe structures including chimney stacks, lost tiles, guttering, signage and falling debris.

There were also two road collisions on the M55 including an overturned HGV.

Area manager Michael Barke said: "A red alert for weather is extremely unusual and this event certainly posed a high risk of damage to property and threat to public safety.

"Thankfully the very strong winds have not resulted in any one significant incident.

"However, there will be a lot of debris and fallen trees on the roads and a lot of damage to house roofs, fences and outbuildings such as timber sheds.

"Whilst the initial emergency planning phase was successful, we will now be preparing to deal with any calls for help with damage that is only going to become apparent in daylight."

Darwin caught weather experts by surprise

Met Eireann is now tracking another storm front which could hit Ireland from tomorrow, bringing the threat of  further misery and hampering the nationwide repair efforts.

The severity of Storm Darwin appeared to catch everyone unawares, with forecasters forced to issue severe weather warnings at the same time as the gales roared through the country.

A Met Eireann spokesman said: “In terms of destruction it's probably the worst we've seen in a while.

Hospitals in Limerick and Cork were dealing with at least 30 cases of weather-related injuries.

In Laois, a mother, grandmother and three young children escaped death when a large tree fell on their car as they made their way home.

Further reading

OAP killed as 108mph storms lash UK 

Super-storm Darwin shuts airports, cuts power and collapses roads

Road collapses in Co Down due to weather after Northern Ireland battered by wind and rain 

Roofs torn off as homes are blacked out in Republic of Ireland 

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