Navy airlift as flood chaos returns

Salisbury Journal: Some victims of the Christmas storms are still without power.
Some victims of the Christmas storms are still without power.

Seven people have been airlifted to safety after heavy rain caused flooding in Scotland, with the rest of the UK braced for more storms as the new year begins.

The group of people, which included four children, were rescued from a farmhouse near Closeburn in Thornhill, Dumfries and Galloway, by a Royal Navy helicopter after rain forced families to be evacuated from dozens of homes and caused major road disruption.

Around 40 houses in Kirkconnel, Dumfries and Galloway, were evacuated, as were 25 in Dumfries after the River Nith burst its banks, flooding the Whitesands area.

The heavy rain also caused problems on the roads, with the A76 at Kirkconnel closed and flooding on the A74 and A75.

A landslide on the A7 just south of Langholm closed the road for a short while while many minor roads were only passable with care. Police advised motorists to travel only if necessary and to check routes before setting off.

Some of the heaviest rain was in Threave, Kirkcudbrightshire, which saw 66mm (2.6 inches) of rain in the 20 hours up until 2pm, while Eskdalemuir in Dumfriesshire had 65mm (2.56 inches).

Forecasters say there is more misery to come, with the Met Office issuing a severe weather warning for rain on New Year's Day, affecting southern England and western Scotland.

The latest severe weat her is set to push in from the Atlantic, crossing the UK from west to east, and it is feared there could be localised flooding in the south west and south east of England.

Flood warnings have been issued by the Environment Agency as already-sodden land, yet to recover from the Christmas storms, is expected to struggle to cope with further rainfall.

Councils are preparing for the worst, with emergency accommodation lined up in case people are forced to leave their homes.

Met Office spokesman Dan Williams said: "There is a big band of rain that will bring persistent rain to most parts of the UK through the day on Wednesday. It will be a pretty wet and windy day.

"It won't be on a par with the winds we've seen in some of the recent storms, but exposed areas of the western coast and some of the south coast will see speeds of 50 to 60mph. There could be a fair amount of rain in the south and south west of England, with 10-20mm falling fairly widely, and up to 40mm in coast areas."

The Environment Agency said there was a continuing risk of flooding, particularly in the south west of England, as rivers respond to heavy rainfall.

A spokesman said: "On New Year's Day, heavy rain is expected which could cause flooding to communities in the south east and south west of England.

"The Environment Agency is urging communities to prepare in advance by signing up for free flood warnings and to take action if they receive one. A flood warning indicates that flooding is expected."

The agency said it has teams on the ground "around the clock" operating pumping stations, issuing flood warnings and checking that flood banks, walls and barriers are working effectively.

It said: "People travelling this week are also reminded to check the latest flood updates ahead of making journeys and should not drive through dangerous floodwater."

The spokesman added that there have been 1,300 properties flooded across England and Environment Agency flood defences have protected more than 80,000 properties from flooding.

People seeking advice on what to do before, during and after flooding were told to visit the Environment Agency website or to call Floodline on 0845 988 1188.

The Local Government Association has urged people to look on council websites to keep updated with information.

Mike Jones, chairman of the LGA's environment and housing board, said: "This week's storms have reminded us just how unforgiving and formidable nature can be but councils have worked hard to try and minimise the impact on residents. Councils work all year round to have emergency plans in place to cope with bad weather and have moved swiftly to put them into place this week.

"Teams have been out in force right across the country this Christmas clearing the roads and checking in on vulnerable residents and are ready to do so again. With the bad weather set to return, local authorities up and down the country remain prepared to divert staff from their normal duties and have placed additional employees on standby to work with fire crews and other emergency services to get people help if they need it.

"Staff have been taking measures such as emptying gullies to alleviate the risk of road flooding. Plans have also been put in place to ensure that older and more vulnerable people are not put at risk and can still access the council help they rely upon."

Last week's storms caused power outages that affected thousands of people.

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