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No respite for families left without power after storm

BY DOMINIC HARRIS

As Northern Ireland enjoyed a mild, bright and sunny Christmas Day, thousands of people in the rest of the United Kingdom suffered a cold and wet Christmas after storms caused widespread flooding and power failures across the country.

Scores of homes were left under water and tens of thousands endured a Christmas Day without electricity after torrential rain lashed Britain.

And the Christmas misery faced by the thousands of people without power in the wake of the stormy weather may continue through the week.

The power outages come as scores of people had to be evacuated due to flooding, following a number of deaths thought to be related to the bad weather, in the days running up to Christmas.

Just under 50,000 homes across the UK are still without power, Tim Field of the Energy Networks Association said, adding: "It's likely that some people will still be off on Boxing Day. We don't have exact numbers."

UK Power Networks said there were 23,379 households in the South East without power. With many families' turkey dinner ruined, the power company made arrangements for "hundreds" of people to have Christmas dinner.

In all, there were 104 flood warnings and 193 flood alerts.

Members of the Fire Brigades Union in Surrey and Kent broke their strike and were recalled to duty under the terms of an agreement between the union, the employers and the Government.

In the early hours, around 90 people were evacuated from their homes on the River Stour near Bournemouth. Police began to evacuate residents of the Ilford Bridge Home Park, in Dorset shortly after 3am following a severe flood warning. People were also evacuated from the Beaulieu Garden Park Home in Christchurch, Dorset.

The Coastguard joined Kent Fire and Rescue Service to rescue people from the Little Venice Caravan and Marina Park in Yalding after rising waters from the River Medway cut them off.

The Environment Agency said that by last night, 150 properties had been flooded in England, mainly in the south and focused in Surrey and Kent.

In Surrey, residents were evacuated from their homes in Dorking, Leatherhead and Guildford, while more evacuations occurred in Tonbridge, Kent.

Some 40 properties were evacuated in Godalming because of concerns over the height of the River Wey, Surrey Police said, and a rest centre was set up for residents.

Tragedy had struck in the run-up to Christmas Day, with the bad weather thought to have contributed to a number of deaths.

On December 23, a man's body was pulled from the River Rothay in Ambleside, Cumbria, while a woman also died in a river in Gwynedd, North Wales.

Another woman died in a car crash near Shrewsbury, Shropshire around 9.30pm on Monday.

In the Republic, a man in his 40s died when his car hit a wall at Moyleen, near Loughrea, Co Galway, on Monday.

There was chaos at Gatwick Airport after a power cut at the North Terminal led to cancellations and delays, leaving thousands of passengers stranded.

The airport said last night that normal service would resume today.

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