Storm blackout: Thousands left without power as gales batter Northern Ireland
Thousands of homes across Northern Ireland were left without power today after strong winds of up to 75mph battered southern and eastern counties during the night.
Trees fell down across power lines and electricity poles were broken in the gales.
In Mayobridge, Co Down two pensioners are lucky to be alive after an electricity pole broke and crashed on their house, causing a fire which destroyed the property.
The couple were at home with their son in Saint Anne's Terrace when the pole fell. An adjoining house, where two other pensioners live, was damaged by smoke and water.
All the victims were taken to Daisy Hill Hospital but have since been discharged.
South Down MLA Karen McKevitt said: "A great deal of damage was caused by gale force winds during the night. Many homes were without electricity, fallen trees have blocked roads and in this particular instance two homes have been evacuated after an electricity pole fell on the properties. All the occupants are safe but sadly their homes were destroyed.
"We have been in contact with Northern Ireland Electricity and Roads Service and they are making every effort to deal with all reports. A weather warning remains in place for today so I would urge everyone to only make journeys if absolutely necessary. Stay vigilant, stay safe.
In Newry, Canal Street and part of Merchant's Quay have been closed to vehicles and pedestrians due to falling debris from buildings in the area.
NIE emergency crews are working to restore power, but the Met Office weather warning for high winds and heavy rain remains in place until 7pm on Friday evening.
Spokeswoman Julia Carson said: “We have engineers and emergency crews working in difficult weather conditions.
"Overnight we restored power to 20,000 customers and are continuing to assess the damage and carry out repairs in Counties Down, Armagh and Antrim.
“As the weather warning is in place until this evening, we may see more damage to the network through the day. There may also be some areas where we will need to wait for the high winds to abate to allow our emergency crews to work safely."
Anyone who loses electricity supplies should contact the NIE Customer Helpline on 08457 643 643 or report the fault online at nie.co.uk. Updates will be posted on Twitter at @NIElectricity.
Power companies have been condemned for failing to restore supplies to thousands of households as the UK suffered a second major storm over the Christmas holiday.
The clear-up operation from the chaos on Christmas Eve was being overtaken by yet another blast from the Atlantic, which brought high winds and heavy rain to already hard-hit areas.
More than 3,000 people in Kent, Surrey and Sussex were still without power after the Christmas Eve storm, according to UK Power Networks.
The network operator's promise to have everyone back with power by the weekend has done little to quell the anger of customers, some of whom took to Twitter to vent their frustration.
Katharine Weaver said: "My parents in their 70s have been without power since the 23rd and can't get any information."
Jessika Norin, from Tovil, Maidstone, said: "Been out since Monday, getting desperate with 3 young kids."
Emma Jessop, from Wallington, south London, said: "I have two young children and really need a response about when power will be restored."
UK Power Networks said it has not had any more "widespread problems" after last night's storm.
The Met Office said the latest storm would not bring as severe conditions as earlier this week, but there was a further risk of flooding in already saturated areas.
A spokesman for the Met Office said: "A swathe of severe gale force winds are likely to cross northern England during Friday which could cause disruption to transport and power suppliers.
"Gusts of 60-70mph are expected widely with potential for gusts of 80mph on the western coast and high ground within these areas. The winds are expected to ease slowly this evening."
The Met Office has issued yellow and amber weather warnings, indicating "severe or hazardous weather" with potential to "cause danger to life or widespread disruption".
The Environment Agency (EA) said rainfall last night was less than expected, with about 10mm in the South East.
However, a spokesman added: "Rivers in the South East are still responding to the rainfall earlier in the week.
"The levels are still peaking for rivers with bigger catchment areas, such as the Stour through Canterbury and Ashford and the River Medway, which runs through Maidstone."
The EA has had reports of about 1,200 properties flooding so far. It has around 50 flood warnings and 150 flood alerts in place.
The agency recorded the highest ever water levels downstream of the Leigh Barrier, a large storage reservoir which is supposed to protect Tonbridge in Kent from flooding.
A spokesman from the EA said: "Had it not been there we would have seen flooding in Tonbridge on the scale of 1968, when the whole town flooded."
As it was, the town was badly flooded on Christmas Eve.
The Highways Agency was advising road users to be cautious as more strong winds were forecast across much of England.
National Rail said Arriva Trains Wales services between Holyhead and Llandudno Junction were delayed and East Coast trains were running at a reduced speed of 50mph across large parts the network due to the storm.
The EA said there would a respite over the weekend, but warned that severe weather would return next week, with a further risk of flooding.
Belfast Telegraph Digital